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By Clare Jupp

The government says that one in four people has a mental disorder at some point in their life, with an annual cost of £105bn. Figures also show that young people are affected disproportionately, with over half of mental health problems starting by the age of 14 and 75% by 18.

High on the political agenda, the prime minister recently said that mental health had been “dangerously disregarded” as secondary to physical health and changing that would go “right to the heart of our humanity”. Agreed and it is my strong belief that when it comes to mental health, we all have our part to play in society: we cannot just leave this to mental health charities and support services. Furthermore, mental health problems are everyone’s problem and as a society we must face up to that fact.

As an employer and a Director of People Development, I believe that all organisations have a significant responsibility in supporting employees who are experiencing mental health issues but also in providing adequate training and education so that team members can also recognise the signs of emergent problems, will know how they can support their colleagues and where to direct them for specialist care and help. Simon Walker, Director General at the Institute of Directors, recently stated that employers had “a real role to play” in ensuring the mental health of their workforce.

With this in mind, it is pleasing to learn that mental health campaigner Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of the charity Mind, have been appointed to carry out a review on improving support in the workplace. I have also read that employers and organisations will be given additional training in supporting staff who need to take time off.

Words and intentions are all very well however but it’s actions that are required to make the real difference. At Brightstar, we intend to not only talk about health issues, but to also act on our thoughts and feelings and bring about changes that will hopefully benefit our team and make a contribution to wider society.

Therefore, in 2017, we have announced that we shall be supporting mental health charities, following on from our previous successes with and support of a range of other charitable causes on an annual basis. Building on previous successes with our charitable work, we will be extending this from fundraising and basic awareness, to a much more targeted and strategic plan of support. Our aims will be to:

  • To enhance awareness about mental health issues
  • To provide support for employees whom are experiencing mental health problems or are living with those who suffer from mental health issues
  • To remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues
  • To link up with local and national mental health charities
  • To engage in fundraising activities

We want to encourage our team to talk about mental health issues and to acknowledge the likelihood that 25% of our team will experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives, be it an eating disorder, stress, anxiety, addiction, depression, PND, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a phobia or other.

By talking and building awareness, we hope to de-stigmatise mental health issues and encourage people who are suffering to speak out and seek support or conversely, to offer those who are suffering, the hand of friendship and a non-judgmental approach.

We also want to ensure that our People Development offering at Brightstar includes this level of pastoral support so that our Brightstar family receive support, development and education in all aspects of their self. Our intention, therefore, is to secure a holistic approach towards supporting our team members.

By engaging with local mental health charities, we also hope to set up access arrangements to counsellors and support groups and to also offer our team members awareness and educational sessions.

Finally, as expressed in previous columns and conversations with industry colleagues, Brightstar will look to spearhead a significant charity event, aimed at raising awareness and funds for a mental health charity.

In summary, it is time for us to unshroud the ‘unmentionable’ that is mental health and bring it to the forefront rather than push it to the back. Quite simply, mental health issues create separations within society which compound the feelings of those who suffer as being different and feeling helpless and lonely. Without appropriate help, mental health issues can destroy people’s lives, perhaps including your own or those whom you know or love.