Together we can help people talk about mental health

James Haluch, Managing Director
08 May 2017
Image of a person raising their hands freely in front of a sunset.
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Mental health awareness, and cultural understanding, has changed hugely in the last few years. It doesn’t seem that long ago it was an unspoken matter. Now, thanks to national campaigns and, as we have seen, high profile people opening up about their own mental health problems, it is part of our national debate. This week it’s Mental Health Awareness Week when efforts to break down that stigma are redoubled.

Regrettably I have seen the effects of this illness first hand, losing a colleague, who was also a family friend, in recent years. He spoke openly about the illness and how he felt and this has driven me to improve the understanding and support we give to our colleagues and friends.      

There is now much more acceptance of the fact that physical and mental health are two sides of the same coin – they are interlinked and equally crucial to people’s wellbeing. But this notion has been slow to be embedded in especially some of the more male-dominated sectors and areas of work where we operate. Is this down to a reluctance to open up about feelings? Quite possibly. People are sadly still ashamed to have and talk about very common health conditions. It is also true that we, as employers, have in the past avoided understanding employee needs as well as we should have.  

We’re trying to address these issues at Amey now with a fresh impetus. On 11 May, I will be signing the Time to Change Employer Pledge as part of Mental Health Awareness Week. As part of our pledge, we are committing to raising awareness of the importance of looking after our mental wellbeing, creating a culture where employees feel comfortable to speak up and ensuring that employees who need support are provided with it.

We’re also launching a ‘mental health ambassador network’ on the same day. The ambassadors will support us in delivering this message across the business and promoting the support available to employees who need it. They will be passionate about breaking down any mental health stigma and driving change to help embed the way we think and act about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Along with other initiatives that are taking place, this commitment is part of an initial three-year strategy to tackle the pressing issue of mental health to enable long-term future change.

While I am saddened by the slow pace of change, I am also hopeful for the future. If every company makes small changes we can hopefully, together improve awareness and willingness of people to talk about mental health.


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