MEET THE SPEAKERS

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The WatercoolerThis Is MeRetail TrustMindMental Health First Aid (MHFA) EnglandInvestors In PeopleBITCOne Million Lives

Are you ready for a new era of workplace mental health and wellbeing?

The immediate threat of the pandemic may have eased, but the need to prioritise workplace mental health and wellbeing has never been more important. McKinsey reports that almost 50% of employees are burnt out and The World Economic Forum highlights that one in three employees are considering leaving their work because of their mental health,

Perhaps no surprise when you consider that in just two years, we’ve experienced a decade of change in the world of work.

Whilst this undoubtedly presents challenges, it also opens up opportunities for employers to scale up workplace mental health and wellbeing support, embed wellbeing as a strategic priority and set a new benchmark for best practice.

At the 5th annual MAD World Summit we’ll be helping employers to step up their cultures of care by showcasing what’s working now and what’s needed next to really Make A Difference to workplace mental health and wellbeing.

Wherever you are on your workplace wellbeing journey, join us on 11th October for a day packed with insight, inspiration, networking and practical takeaways including:

  • Agenda-setting keynotes from business, thought and health leaders
  • Cross-sector case studies and panel discussions
  • Roundtables for real-time knowledge exchange and networking
  • Interactive workshops to dive deeper into topics that matter
  • 40 suppliers of work culture, mental health and wellbeing solutions under one roof
  • New for 2022: The Make A Difference Awards @ MAD World

Mad World Summit

Key topics we’ll be addressing include:

  • The mental health and wellbeing challenges employers need to be prepared for post-pandemic
  • What works in wellbeing: beyond rhetoric to practical, evidence-based measurement
  • How to keep mental health and wellbeing at the top of the Board’s agenda
  • Scaling up with a joined-up approach to mental, physical, financial, social and environmental wellbeing
  • Moving the dial when it comes to work related stress, depression and anxiety
  • What toxic workplace cultures look like and how to tackle them
  • Approaches to Inclusively supporting the wellbeing of neurodiverse colleagues
  • The four-day week as the next frontier in workplace wellbeing
  • Best practice approaches to creating psychological safety and safe spaces at work
  • Equipping leaders and managers with the skills to support their own and colleagues’ wellbeing in the new world of work
  • What next for the Chief Wellbeing Officer? Your career in workplace wellbeing
  • Seamlessly integrating wellbeing with diversity and inclusion
  • The power of community: making the most of peer-to-peer networks
  • The benefits of taking wellbeing to the wider community

We'll Be Sharing

INSIGHTS

Meet the people developing the most progressive approaches to workplace culture,mental health and wellbeing

COLLABORATION

Share knowledge in real-time with our cross-sector, cross-function network of like-minded speakers, exhibitors and attendees.

ACTION

Tell your colleagues and book a group pass. Get practical insights to take back and adapt to your organisation.

Gold Sponsors

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Latest Make A Difference News

Make A Difference News

There is increasing interest in supporting women’s health, as well as ongoing recognition that men’s health is too often under-supported. The statistics speak for themselves:

  • 85% of working age women have experienced at least 4 women’s health issues
  • 1 in 5 of your male employees will die before retirement age

The question that employers are asking though is: how can we offer gender-inclusive wellbeing initiatives that reflect how different people engage with healthcare?

One size fits none

To understand more about why traditional forms of healthcare are exclusive, the experience of men and women in getting healthcare support and how a business can support EVERYONE in their organisation, join us on Tuesday 27 September, from 12.00pm to 1.00pm for our free to attend, interactive Lunch & Learn Make A Difference webinar, sponsored by Peppy: “One size fits none – How to offer gender-inclusive health support at work”.

Tune in to:

  • Understand the key women’s and men’s health challenges employers should be aware of.
  • Discuss the different types of support employers can access.
  • Learn from the approaches different employers are taking to ensure gender-inclusive healthcare is accessible to everyone.

Featuring expert speakers including:

  • Sharmila Kupfuwa, Head of Health, BMW Group
  • Helen Lake, Director of Men’s Health services, Peppy
  • Francesca Steyn, Director of Fertility and Women’s Health services, Peppy

The content is designed for: 

• C-suite, HR, Wellbeing Leaders
• Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Leaders
• Wellbeing Champions

In other words, anyone who is responsible for the wellbeing of colleagues.

We make our webinars as interactive as possible, so it’s a great opportunity to share ideas and tips with peers from across sectors.

We look forward to seeing you there. If you can’t make the date/time, go ahead and register anyway and we’ll send you the recording a few days after the session.

You can find more details and reserve your place here.

New webinar: One size fits none – How to offer gender-inclusive health support at work

For the first time since 2019, The Investors in People Awards return to an in person ceremony, which will shine a spotlight on the successes of individuals and employers from around the world.

In 2021, 41 winners were celebrated in a record-breaking year for entries. Investors in People are confident that they’ll receive even more entries in 2022.

Could you be a winner?

This year’s awards include both mainstay and new categories including the well-established award for Health & Wellbeing. New categories have been designed to recognise The Best Purpose Driven People Community and the Best Flexible Working Policy.

Categories are split to recognise individuals, organisations and employers who are all striving to #MakeWorkBetter.

Success stories

The winner of Investors in People’s Health & Wellbeing award in 2021 was Graham Construction. Speaking about the award, Michael Smyth, Graham’s HR Director said:

“I firmly believe people don’t just join businesses for money and career development. These may be important starting points, but the type of employer you are, is what keeps people long term. If you value individuals and focus on “Wellbeing”, people respond”.

Entries close on 26th August. For more information and to enter, visit https://www.investorsinpeople.com/awards-2022/

 

The Investors in People Awards are back… in person… entries close 26th August

Like many companies, energy company RWE found its workforce felt depleted and disconnected in the wake of COVID-19 with some colleagues being at risk of suffering burnout.

Robert Manson, Head of Centre of Expertise for Health and Wellbeing, RWE Generation, decided to use returning to ‘normal’ post pandemic as an opportunity to create a ‘new normal’ in terms of working culture.

“Not just a culture of flexible working – we’ve been doing that for ages – but a new mindset,” he says.

Creating a culture that prioritised energy not time

He was keen to create a culture that prioritised workers maximising their energy, rather than their time, to achieve peak performance.

‘We make energy for the world but I realised we weren’t managing our own energy that well!” he says. “We put together an energy management programme with the inhouse Health and Wellbeing team.”

The programme covers topics like the definition of energy/pressure/stress, good energy principles and what you can do as an individual to enhance your energy. Employees can either attend a 3 hour ‘Energy for life’ workshop, or leaders can attend a day-long ‘Energy for Leaders’ course or technicians on sites can access a condensed hour-long version.

Giving employees the opportunity to talk in a fast, busy world

The programme launched four months ago and, according to Manson, has garnered much positive feedback already. It is now available in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, with the UK actually proving to be the most progressive in terms of openness talking about mental health. Manson has found that the most valuable benefit is that it gives employees and managers the opportunity to talk about issues that they would not otherwise do in a fast, busy world.

Senior and line managers make up the bulk of employees that have so far completed the course because this group, according to Manson, is the most at risk from burnout.

“They also set the culture for the team, so they are a crucial part of the jigsaw in helping to improve the culture and reduce workplace pressures,” says Manson. “Like many companies, in the pandemic we let our healthy habits slide and the pressure became heightened and, with it, the risk of burnout.”

Employees encouraged to take the initiative & come up with wellbeing solutions

According to Manson, the reason it’s been so successful and got high engagement so far is down to its simplicity and the fact that small actions can make the biggest difference. For instance, the programme suggests that meetings be restricted to 50 minutes maximum to build in recovery time and avoid a draining schedule of back to back meetings.

Another reason the programme has gone down well with employees is due to the fact it encourages them to take initiative after the training and implement their own energy-enhancing work practices. All workshops end with the question ‘what healthy habits are you now going to build into your day?’ which participants have really taken ownership of.

For example, on the back of the programme, employees working in the power stations have created 6 ‘rules’ to follow during the stressful outage period in particular to ensure they’re proactively looking after their health and wellbeing.

These 6 rules are:

1. I will take a break at least every other weekend if practicable, as time management is important to my Wellbeing.

2. At lunch I will not be desk bound, I will try to get away from the office or workplace whilst having my breaks. 

3. I will not work long hours for many consecutive days, as I understand that continuous days of long hours leads to fatigue which can lead to mistake and potentially accidents.

4. I will find the time to engage and discuss with the working parties their ideas for Wellbeing, Safety and work area/task improvements. I will implement at least one of the suggestions and provide feedback.

5. I will make an effort to regularly ask my colleagues ‘how are you doing?’ and I will take the time to listen and be supportive.

6. I will make sure I drink enough water to stay hydrated and eat regular healthy snacks to keep my energy level high.

“We believe that by starting simple, for example trying to adhere to the 6 rules above as much as possible during the outage, not just as individuals but as a large team sharing same principles and expectations, will lead to significant improvements in effectively managing our Energy balance,” says Manson.

You might also be interested in:

The Energy Book: 50 ways to boost your energy in work and life (Concise Advise)

Five Ways To Help Fatigued Employees Avoid Burnout

The Science Of Happiness: Five Ways To Better Mental Health

How RWE energised its employees post-pandemic

Serco, the FTSE250 company that is a contractor for the provision of government services in UK & Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and the Middle East, announced on LinkedIn this week that they are delighted to be one of the first global organisations to have received the ISO 45003 accreditation for psychological health and safety.

The accreditation reflects Serco’s ongoing commitment to the health, safety, and wellbeing of colleagues.

Serco employs over 50,000 people, operating across four geographies and five sectors: Defence, Justice & Immigration, Transport, Health and Citizen Services.

Recognising the importance of taking a joined-up, cross-departmental approach to workplace wellbeing, Serco’s post on LinkedIn explained:

“We want to be a leader in wellbeing and an employer of choice, so we challenged ourselves to complete the accreditation which is the first global standard on supporting psychological health in the workplace. We are very proud that the process highlighted the collaboration and joint working already in place between our health and safety teams, our people, and operations”.

Gold standard

The ISO 45003 Standard for Psychological Health and Safety was introduced in 2020. It provides guidance on the management of psychosocial risk, as part of an occupational health and safety management system.

Even though it is not mandatory, ISO 45003 is a useful tool for embedding health and workplace wellbeing programmes.

As witnessed by the recent CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark report – with growing interest from investors in how organisations are supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their people – being able to demonstrate commitment through ISO 45003 could be advantageous on many levels.

It’s notable that Serco posted strong half year results for 2022 and did better in the first half of the year than they expected in January. Could this be a reflection of the organisation’s commitment to protecting the wellbeing of colleagues and the communities in which they operate and serve?

Serco follows in the footsteps of EMCOR UK, the first UK organisation to achieve ISO 45003 accreditation.

You can find more about the ISO 45003 Standard for Psychological Health & Safety here.

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EMCOR UK’s Experience Of Adopting The ISO 45003 Standard for Psychological Health and Safety at Work

What Makes EMCOR’s Award-winning Wellbeing Strategy Work

This Make A Difference webinar, which includes input from Jamie Broadley, Serco’s dynamic Group Head of Health & Wellbeing:

Lunch & Learn Webinar: Building the business case for better Wellbeing – the KPI-based approach

 

Serco receives ISO 45003 accreditation for commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of colleagues

With the pandemic leaving many families facing increased pressures and demands, wellbeing resources and support have become more and more important for forward thinking employers.

One such employer who is consistently demonstrating their commitment to employee wellbeing is retailer John Lewis Partnership. 

Setting a benchmark

Last Autumn they introduced a new package of support for Partners (employees) which saw them become the first UK retailer to introduce 26 weeks equal parenthood paid maternity and paternity leave. They also offer 2 weeks of paid leave for any Partner who experiences the loss of a pregnancy.

Sharon White, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said:

“As an employee-owned business, equality matters to us. We want John Lewis and Waitrose to be a place for everyone and for people from all walks of life to feel valued so they can thrive in our business. 

“We want to be there for our Partners to support them in important life moments, whether that’s stepping into the world of work for the first time, or becoming a parent.”

John Lewis Partnership also started pilot schemes that support young people leaving the care system to find employment. This is another example of how they ‘contribute to the wellbeing of communities in which [they] operate’ – one of the guiding principles from their constitution.

Inclusive wellbeing

More recently, in July of this year, John Lewis Partnership was recognised as being a Menopause Friendly Employer. This is an accreditation awarded for creating an inclusive culture where everyone feels able to talk about the menopause and women are given the support they need.

They join other Menopause Friendly employers such as AXA and Clifford Chance, recognising the importance of normalising the conversation around women’s health and including it as part of their wellbeing strategy.

Carolyn Harris MP, Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group on Menopause said:

“Workplace support is vital for those experiencing symptoms of the menopause and I welcome the commitment that The John Lewis Partnership has made to their employees.  Too many women have suffered due to a lack of understanding from their employers and we know that one in ten menopausal women have felt forced to leave the workforce as a result.  By introducing some simple changes employers like The John Lewis Partnership will benefit from being able to retain experienced and loyal employees at the peak of their careers.  It is wonderful to see the menopause finally being taken seriously and I am delighted that the commitment that The John Lewis Partnership has made, has been recognised and that they have been accredited as a Menopause Friendly Employer.”

Continuing in this inclusive pattern of wellbeing support, this month the John Lewis Partnership has announced that it will offer resources on fertility, pregnancy, parenthood, nutrition and more, giving access to expert help via video calls and workshops, along with providing a community of like minded people.

Health & Wellbeing Development Manager Stacey MacDougall, said:

“We want our Partners to be happy and have a wide range of resources available to support their wellbeing.”

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How John Lewis engaged ethnic minorities at risk in its diabetes campaign

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John Lewis Partnership demonstrates continued commitment to employee wellbeing

Companies are increasingly looking at how they collect specific health related data for their ethnic minority employee groups in order to better connect them with wellbeing messages. 

Similarly, the NHS is stepping up its data collection efforts, with the creation of a new hub last year – the NHS Race & Health Observatory – to identify and tackle ethnic inequalities in health and care, which will also help companies to tailor their wellbeing proposition for these groups more effectively.

This topic is close to the heart of former head of wellbeing at John Lewis Partnership, now wellbeing strategist, Nick Davison who ran a campaign to raise awareness of diabetes during the pandemic – and the specific higher risk to ethnic minorities – especially those who contract COVID-19. He believes that developing relevance for ethnic minority employees with more specific wellbeing messages will become much more common in future as a result of better data collection which seeks to highlight the very real health inequalities that already exist:

Companies and the NHS are now collecting more granular health data on ethnic minorities

“Companies, as well as the NHS, haven’t historically measured the different risks and outcomes affecting different communities particularly well. There are some data protection sensitivities and requirements that have to be met. But if we are truly serious about starting to deal with the very real health inequalities being experienced by members of our ethnic minority communities then the focus and approach has to change.

That’s now starting to become more evident and companies will need to look at how they collect, use and report on data because the more granular information and insight you have, the better equipped you are to help people from the communities that need it the most,” says Davison.

It was the data collected by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) report  produced in June 2020, which really shone a light on the health inequalities relating to COVID-19 and ethnic minorities, which kickstarted the John Lewis Partnership’s strategy to reach out to specific ethnic groups. The broad range of health inequalities experienced are serious: pregnancy, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, Covid and Type 2 Diabetes being the most significant.

Black/Asian people with diabetes are twice as likely to die

One of the biggest issues to emerge from this report was surrounding Type 2 Diabetes: if you are Black or Asian and have diabetes, astonishingly, the chance of dying is twice that of somebody who is White.

“There’s lots of different reasons for this,” says Davison. “Education and self awareness is important. Language may be a barrier to accessing healthcare. Some of it’s cultural or relates to diet, exercise or non-engagement. But it cannot be OK to just walk past such different outcomes for key parts of our society without trying to raise awareness and do something about it.”

To raise awareness of the very real and often tragic risks, Davison arranged a series of diabetes screening centres in London at its Waitrose and John Lewis shops to act as education hubs. These were run by the company’s in-house occupational nurses and enabled employees to have their diabetes risk assessed and have their weight and BMI measured, as well as a discussion about healthier lifestyle choices.

John Lewis Chairman involved in the diabetes campaign

“To promote it, our Chairman volunteered to be screened and shared her results publicly, which was fantastic and made a huge impact. We were very explicit in promoting this to our Black and Asian Partners,” he explains. “We said everyone’s welcome to come but priority will be given to black and Asian partners because of the greater impact that COVID is having on people with diabetes from those communities.”

While there is often nervousness from employers at specifically reaching out to ethnic minorities, with leaders wary of saying the ‘wrong’ thing or using the ‘wrong’ terminology, Davison believes that “you need to not be afraid to talk directly to those communities”. In his view, health and wellbeing is the ultimate in personalisation and who we are and which communities we represent is a key part of that. Consequently,  generic campaigns risk not reaching the intended audience as effectively nor having the same impact.

Campaign found 43% were high or moderate risk

As a result of the initiative, John Lewis discovered that 13% of all those who were screened for diabetes were at high risk. A further 30% was at moderate risk. 

These screening centres were only just the “starting block” . To build on the awareness and momentum created around these, the company then launched a nutrition campaign ‘Eat Well, Live Well’. 

The campaign gave employees loads of inspiration around healthy meal choices and the positive impact of activity. It  was well received with high engagement from participants. However, one of the take-aways for Davison working on this campaign was that you can provide all the educational opportunities and information as you can but there “is also a point where we all, as individuals, need to own it for ourselves. Enabling behavioural change sits at the heart of making a sustainable difference – and that takes time and persistence”. 

Nick Davison’s 7 top tips on engaging specific ethnic minority groups:

1. If you don’t have one already, think about establishing an informal network group for ethnic minority communities. Ensure they have a group in which they can talk safely with other people that work for the same business that share the same type of challenges and concerns. Encourage members to be part of the solution. You’ll find that people care passionately and will provide a lot of input and become advocates for what you’re trying to do, rather than not engage or become detractors.

2. Use the resources already out there from the likes of health charities like Diabetes UK, British Heart Foundation etc. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; make use of what resource is already there.

3. Capture and report what data you can. Doing this digitally makes it easier and scalable and there’s lots more options than there used to be.

4. Don’t be afraid to speak directly to those communities that are affected by the inequalities. Many employees from ethnic minorities were unaware of the specific risks potentially affecting them and our diabetes campaign set out to raise the profile of this disease and how it affected them and members of their community. That’s why we were very clear in our promotion of the campaign, that it was primarily aimed at our Black and Asian colleagues, even though everyone was welcome to attend the screening sessions we set up. A general campaign doesn’t have the impact on those that are most at risk as those most at risk may assume it  doesn’t apply to them.

5. If you’re worried about saying the wrong thing when it comes to ethnic minorities health issues and the existing inequalities, relate your communications back to the evidence and facts from the public domain. You are trying to help  and as an example the diabetes challenges are clearly demonstrating that the disease disproportionately affects Black and ethnic minority communities.

6. Language can be a barrier. Make sure you translate the information into different languages relevant to your workforce.

7. Treat people as adults and give them information, provide opportunities to find out more and encourage them. But, ultimately, it it’s their responsibility to change behaviours but that shouldn’t stop you encouraging them; People learn about their own risks then choose or not choose to make positive lifestyle choices.

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How John Lewis engaged ethnic minorities at risk in its diabetes campaign

There’s a lot going on at the moment in the world of women’s health and mental health.

In July, the UK government finally published its ‘Women’s Health Strategy for England’ and appointed Dame Lesley Regan as the first Women’s Health Ambassador. A huge step forward in how we approach and look after women’s health and mental health.

In my world and work however, I am seeing a concerning narrative building that we need to focus hard on men’s mental health. That we need to get men to talk about their mental health, that mental health at work is about leadership and men showing vulnerability, and that we need to get more men to engage…

Moving women’s health mainstream

This is of course all true. We do need to do these things. Why it concerns me though is that I am seeing that this narrative is making men’s mental health the default, and women’s health and mental health the niche or ‘the bit on the side’. As with the rest of life.

The fact is that women have higher rates of common mental illnesses than men. They show different symptoms in illnesses such as bipolar and schizophrenia, and have mental illnesses that men don’t such including premenstrual dysphoric disorder, postnatal depression and perimenopausal depression. As Lucy Foulkes references in her book “What Mental Illness Really Is… (and what it isn’t), young women also have the fastest growing suicide rates.

Women also have higher rates of chronic illness and autoimmune diseases, lower survival rates than men for heart attacks, and less positive interactions with health providers. Globally approximately 1% of healthcare research and innovation is invested in female-specific conditions beyond oncology, despite women making up 52% of the global population.

I have spent this month thinking about the cause of all of this. Health and mental health is a construct of chemical, hormonal, physical, emotional and societal factors, all interacting to create how healthy or mentally healthy we are.

In a patriarchal world women have for centuries been treated as second class citizens. We still are. I strongly believe that the higher rates of mental and chronic illnesses in women (as well as being due to how healthcare is structured) is due to women’s bodies and brains reacting to living and being in a patriarchal society. Having to work harder, fighting for the same rights, direct and indirect discrimination, fear of attack whilst walking down the road.

This societal aspect of living impacts health and our bodies directly through the chemicals we release, how our nervous systems work and how functional our immune systems are.

I had the absolute pleasure of taking my 8 year daughter to Wembley last weekend to see the Lionnesses win. A once in a lifetime opportunity. I can’t put into words the energy of 87,192 people (predominantly families) reacting to the England goals or singing ‘It’s coming home’ at the end, knowing that England had won and that it was. I am getting goosebumps as I write this.

Change for the better

Why this mattered so much to me to be there with my daughter is that this was the best opportunity I could have given her of female role models. To see women win. To know that their win was after decades of women footballers having to fight to be seen and to play. Barriers that male footballers have never had. That it was so deserved. And that matters.

Because if the higher rates of women’s mental illness and chronic illness we see are women’s bodies reacting to living in this world, then our daughters seeing women win, will hopefully mean that things change. That these rates come down. And that the work starting in government means that women’s health and mental health is no longer a niche.

About the author

This article is an extract from Amy McKeown’s newsletter. Amy is an award-winning health, mental health and wellbeing consultant. She coaches organisations of all sizes to build strategies with are both innovative and measurable, whilst providing unique expertise in implementing said strategies. Amy is also a respected thought-leader within her field, sharing her advice regularly on LinkedIn and at speaker events such as MAD World and The Watercooler.

Amy will be leading discussion around the issues raised in this article during some of her Autumn masterclasses. You can find out more at www.amymckeown.com and catch up with Amy’s previous masterclasses here.

Why the Lionesses win matters for women’s health and mental health

Business for Health (B4H) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) are inviting all organisations to try out the beta version of the Workforce Health Index due to be launched in November 2022.

The launch will follow an intensive research audit and analysis across the three pillars of the Business Framework for Health, and informed by three round tables held with the CBI in February, May and July.

Now B4H would like to test out the questions which will inform the Index. They would also like to start collecting datasets from businesses in all sectors and sizes – from large corporates to SMEs.

Their aim is to create a national baseline of workforce health provision against which they can iterate and develop the Workforce Health Index to understand how best employers can boost their role, Levelling Up the nation’s health, increasing healthy life expectancy and minimising health and wellbeing disparities.

If you would like to get involved and try out the Workforce Health Index, you can contact community.manager@businessforhealth.org to find more.

B4H and CBI invite employers to try out the Workforce Health Index

Black Lives Matter brought the issue of how Black people are treated differently in society into the spotlight, with many companies making announcements on the back of the campaign pledging their commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

However, Ngozi Weller, director at Aurora Wellness, believes that the topic of Black mental health – and understanding the unique challenges that Black people face when it comes to talking about their wellbeing – still hasn’t got much attention. The reasons behind mental health stigma in Black communities are nuanced and complex but need to be understood if workplaces are going to create psychologically safe environments for all employees.

In this Q&A she describes her personal experience of suffering a mental health problem and feeling stigmatised, as well as her professional opinion of how workplaces need to change in order to be genuinely inclusive. She now supports HR and C-Suite leaders to reduce employee burnout through effective mental wellbeing support.

Q&A with Ngozi Weller, Director at Aurora Wellness

Do you think that mental health stigma is greater in ethnic minorities than it is amongst the general population?

Yes. The stigma around receiving a diagnosis, treatment and support for mental health is a completely different kettle of fish to general physical wellbeing. There are so many different cultural and real reasons why mental health and wellbeing has such a stigma in the Black community.

Why is the mental health stigma so much greater?

I’ll answer that using my own story. I am a first generation daughter of two medical doctors and I was diagnosed with work related anxiety, stress and depression by my GP in 2017. I felt bad enough about my diagnosis and really embarrassed to tell my parents. When I told them, my dad said: “You must not be depressed. There were times when I wanted to be depressed and I just said ‘no’”. This idea that my mental ill health was something that I could choose to control, that with enough will power I could somehow just get over it is common, and yet so harmful.

Many Black people don’t want to admit to mental health problems because they don’t want the stigma of yet another negative label. It is already difficult navigating majority White workspaces as a Black person.

That’s the reality you’re dealing with, so you think ‘how can I afford to add more labels to my negative labels?’.

My reality in the corporate workplace was that I was perceived as ‘too loud’, ‘too jokey’ and generally ‘too much’. And my experience is not uncommon. Black people often feel that they are noticed for all the wrong reasons, both societally and in the workplace. Because of that we feel that we can’t afford to attach another label like ‘troubled’ or ‘difficult’ by addressing or drawing attention to any mental health concerns. There is a real risk that despite reassurances to the contrary, such stigma would jeopardise our career progression.

Is the mental health stigma still as strong as it was in 2017 when you were diagnosed?

Although it’s still very stigmatised, it is improving, slowly. It’s all tied to how mental health is perceived in the wider population and also how Black and ethnic minorities prosper socially and economically.

What positive action can employers take to make this situation better?

They can create an environment that fosters psychological safety for Black people.

But whatever you do, it has to be genuine. We have to believe you when you say ‘we do care about you and this won’t affect your career negatively’.

What specifically do Black people need to feel psychologically safe?

Since the BLM movement, we are seeing more organisations say that they care about equity and inclusion and promising to strive harder to eliminate the racial and gender inequalities in the workplace. Well, the proof is in the pudding, and as we see more Black people at increasingly senior levels (particularly in the board room), we can start to relax as race is no longer an obstacle. When we’re treated differently, not paid as well and there’s only one of us in the room, that feels psychologically unsafe.

We also need to have access to people who have expertise in dealing with racial trauma, therapists, counsellors or coaches who are Black and who specialise in working with Black people.

And you (the employer) need to prove that this additional label is not going to disadvantage the Black employee more than colour and gender (if female) already do.

Why is it so important that therapists are Black?

For the same reason that some women prefer to work with female coaches, increased understanding and comfort. Many Black people have unique experiences that require support from someone who can personally empathise, rather than just sympathise. If your employees have struggled with trauma linked to their ethnicity or nationality, it is much easier and feels safer to talk to someone who understands those experiences, ideally one who is trauma informed.

What would you like to see more of in the workplace?

A more strategic approach to mental health in general. The pandemic has resulted in increased focus on employee wellbeing, but companies need to be prudent in how they invest resources in supporting their employees. It requires considered, strategic planning to ensure that good mental health and wellbeing runs through the very fabric of your corporate culture, rather than being a short-term, reactive response to the current crisis.

What advice do you have for employers who want to target their wellbeing strategies specifically at Black employees in particular due to, for example, health inequalities and the fact this population is at higher risk?

Nobody wants to feel like looking after their wellbeing is just a ‘tick box’ exercise. If there’s a valid reason, then absolutely, specifically target that community. But do so with the right intentions and with informed support. And if you’ve been asked to target a particular ethnic group, hire from within that minority group to help you. Ideally, the person leading the campaign should be from that ethnic group, or at least second in command. It’s marketing 101 to ensure the team designing a product, service or campaign reflects the service users.

Do you have any bugbears about how language is used?

Make an effort to know the terminology that the group you’re trying to talk to use.

Generally, how do you feel about the wellbeing market in relation to Black people?

There isn’t a lot of diversity in the workplace generally and even less in the wellbeing sector. Black mental health has not been talked about, but it’s about time we do.

About Aurora Wellness

Established in 2017, Aurora Wellness is a mental health and wellbeing consultancy that delivers a range of personal development coaching programmes designed to strengthen your employees’ mental resilience and improve workplace productivity. They champion employee wellbeing and change the way people think about mental health in the workplace.

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