World mental health day
Today is World Mental Health Day and here at Haygarth we’re dedicated to the cause. We believe in making our wellbeing a priority and encouraging our people to make mental health a normal part of conversation. I’ve spent years with a foot firmly in two camps: both working on mental health policies and wellbeing provision as part of my role in HR, and having to seek support at work for my own mental health. I’m really proud to be part of a team who are passionate about eradicating the stigma associated with mental illness and making our agency a better place to work.
We already know that our collective mental health is at crisis point. According to Mind, one in four adults develop a mental health illness each year, and one in six people in England experience anxiety and depression in any given week. This is reflected in the workforce, with the CIPD this year reporting that nearly three fifths of workplaces have seen an increase in common mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression amongst their staff in the last year, yet despite this, just 9% of organisations have a standalone mental health policy.
In our industry, agency life is often high-pressured, fast-paced and puts a lot at stake, and to someone struggling with their mental health this can be a difficult combination. Our “always-on” culture and constant willingness to go over and above can be great for the account’s health, but what about our own? At Haygarth we hail our people and culture as the driving force behind our success, and we understand that it’s crucial to look after our most important asset by focusing on both our physical and mental wellbeing. Revealing your mental health status at work can be enormously daunting, but it’s often a vital step in recovery and we all have a part to play in creating a supportive, open culture where it really is safe to talk. Before I opened up about my mental health, the thing I was most terrified of was others seeing me as incapable, that suddenly they wouldn’t task me with anything too taxing in case it would tip me over the edge. But to me, the benefits of opening up have vastly outweighed these fears and I’ve learned first-hand how simply having a conversation with someone who will really listen can lift an enormous weight from your shoulders. The kindness and compassion I’ve been shown over the years is something I strive to give to others who in turn open up to me about the challenges they’re facing.
Which brings me to why today is so important and the amazing efforts we’re making at Haygarth. We’re not only marking today, but we’ve taken the month of October to put mental wellbeing at the forefront of what we do with a full calendar of events. We’ve converted one of our meeting rooms into a meditation room for those who are craving a change of scenery or just simply some quiet time, and we’ll also be running a lunchtime session with a meditation guru. We’re launching a running club and a pedometer challenge, which encourages us to enjoy the beauty of Wimbledon Common on our lunch breaks or swing by the little-known local Buddhist temple during a walking meeting. We’ll reassess our relationship with technology and learn to live in the moment instead of being glued to our phones, with a digital wellbeing session and an agency-wide email amnesty. We’ll be calmed by our four-legged friends as we become a newly declared dog-friendly workplace, we’ll hold relevant and inspiring Ted Talk screenings, learn from each other about managing our own wellbeing during a discussion panel, whizz up and hand out healthy smoothies… and all the while encourage each and every Haygarthian to be comfortable talking about mental health and reaching out for help when they need it.
As jam-packed as our month may be, none of the above is enough to radically overhaul our mental health. But by making it a normal topic of conversation, we help remove the stigma and encourage others to join the conversation. By creating a culture where it’s totally normal to talk about your anxiety at work without judgement, where you realise that admitting you have depression won’t impact your job prospects, that you really can say you’re using a sick day because your OCD won’t let you leave the house instead of saying you have the flu… the more we can all be ourselves at work and receive the support we really need. Mental health isn’t something just to talk about one day a year.
Written by Louise Robertson