Employers from across the North West came together to wear green ribbons in a new drive, called ‘This is Me’ to end the stigma of talking about mental health in the workplace.
Businesses including PwC, Barclays, Sellafield, United Utilities and Seddon along with mental health charities made up some of the organisations united in demonstrating to their employees that it is important to talk about mental health.
As part of the event which took place at Liverpool Town Hall Seddon’s Nicola Hodkinson, director of Business Services, gave a keynote speech on the company’s approach to breaking the culture of silence around the subject.
She told the story of Seddon employee, 25-year-old Jordan Bibby who took his own life last year. In response to the tragedy, Nicola started an initiative for Seddon’s 700 employees called Jordan’s Conversation an educational presentation on mental health and wellbeing. The aim has been to encourage dialogue and openness about mental health and for people across the business to recognise the symptoms of mental health and offer help.
It’s being delivered in partnership with Mates in Mind, a registered charity that aims to raise awareness, address the stigma of poor mental health and improve positive mental wellbeing in the UK construction industry.
Nicola also told the 150-strong audience of Seddon’s comprehensive employee assistance programme, run by employer insurer Aviva – Care First, to provide support services through crisis and access to counselling with a 24 hour confidential external hotline.
She said: “Events like this are really important for organisations to share their stories. I came to a This is Me event in Manchester in May and learned so much about what’s working for some and not for others and one of the things that made a real impact was the concept of the ‘story’ and having the environment in a work place for it to be told. I don’t think I would have had the courage and put it in our plan if I hadn’t been to that event.
“This is important to Seddon. I know we put a brick on a brick, we build buildings, but we are all about people and so we need also to build relationships and get to know each other better. Jordan’s Conversation has a strand of mental health running through it, but it’s just about getting to know who you work with and I think sometimes we don’t take the time to understand each other as much as we used to.
“Jordan’s Conversation going really well, because it’s brought acceptance of ‘it’s ok not to be ok’ and if we can have a conversation around mental health or how people are feeling then we can have conversations about anything.
“I think it’s started to break down those barriers although we have a long way to go. Our sites are the biggest barrier to doing that because they are at arms’ length from our offices and we are going to do more work with that and in supporting our supply chain as well.”
This Is Me is led by Gareth Henty, PwC Pensions Partner and Karen Johnson, Head of Large Corporates for Barclays in the North West. At the Liverpool event, Mayor Joe Anderson, underlined his support for the campaign and revealed his niece Christine Meakin, director of transformation at Barclays, features in the campaign film discussing problems she has faced.
Mayor Anderson said: “It’s great to be able to host this event because it’s important to us and it’s important to me. We have to address mental health across the board and make people aware of its impact and encourage people not to be afraid to come forward if they are struggling. We have moved on a great deal over the last few years , but this must continue.
“It means having at least a basic understanding of what stress and anxiety can do in normal life and one of the best ways we can help this is to remove the stigma and inertia and to help people cope. It’s also about making sure that organisations look after their staff, have people to talk to when needed and create space for this to happen. As a city council I promise this is what we will do.”
Nicola Hodkinson and Mayor Anderson at the This Is Me Event