Breaking down barriers: ambassadors campaign to end mental health discrimination

Rob Edmondson, MD
10 October 2017
Image of Amey's mental health ambassadors.
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Rob Edmondson is the MD for Environmental Services at Amey and a passionate campaigner for mental health.

In spite of great campaigns like ‘Time to Change’ and the extensive coverage the topic gets in the media these days, there’s no escaping it: there’s still stigma around mental health.

And that, unfortunately, is part of the problem. People fear disclosing mental health issues and that terrible worry can fan the flames of the condition itself. Nowhere is this more true than of the work environment. Most people who are experiencing difficulties do not want their employers to know.

As a company, we decided earlier this year to do something about this. Not just pay lip-service to the idea of supporting people with mental health problems, but really raise awareness in our organisation of the support that is out there, encouraging people to step forward and get help.

So we launched the ‘Mental Health Ambassador Network’ as part of our partnership with Time to Change, as well as an employer pledge to end mental health discrimination and focus more on mental wellbeing at Amey.

The Mental Health Ambassador network was set up to encourage people within the business to be champions of this cause. We were delighted when 75 employees at all different levels from across the business quickly put themselves forward for this, passionate about promoting positive mental health and breaking down mental health stigma.

Ambassadors aim to increase understanding around wellbeing by encouraging people to talk about their experiences of mental health. They do this by organising local initiatives, events and activities to improve wellbeing and encourage mental health-related conversations among colleagues, as well as letting people know where and how they can access support.

Our ambassadors are helping to instigate a culture change so we focus on improving and maintaining wellbeing in our workplace and support one another. They encourage people experiencing a mental health condition to feel confident and comfortable to disclose it to the right people and get the help they need.

They play a key role in raising awareness of and promoting national mental health and wellbeing awareness campaigns such as Time to Talk Day, National Stress Awareness Day and Mental Health Awareness Week. We also have a Wellbeing Yammer group where employees can ask questions about wellbeing or the Mental Health Ambassador network at Amey. A member of the team will address any questions or queries raised on the group and respond as quickly as possible.

This is relatively new and unfamiliar territory for Amey. To be honest, we weren’t sure how much interest we would receive when we opened applications to join the new Mental Health Ambassador network. But we received an overwhelming number of responses to join the network which was hugely encouraging. It demonstrates that our employees are just as passionate and motivated about breaking the mental health stigma as we are.

So far, our Ambassadors have organised local Wellbeing days covering a range of topics, weekly meditation sessions, Mental Health First Aider training, and regular Time to Talk events. We’re really proud of what the network has achieved so far and how well it is being received by the business. We’re excited to continue to grow the network and witness the ongoing positive impact that it will have.

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