As a former mental health nurse, Jane Beston believes everyone has the right to both good physical and mental health. Not only a right, Jane establishes, companies have a duty of care to their employees’ well-being. Jane developed the training program at Mental Health at Work, after 20 years of experience in mental health services, treating patients on wards and realising there could be a way to help people much earlier if there wasn’t such a stigma attached to talking about mental health.
“I want to open people’s eyes to mental health in its broadest sense and not just as a mental illness. It’s about understanding the roles the workplace plays, the responsibilities and accountabilities associated with that – which are about managing people, recognising ways of offering additional support and taking responsive action.”
The Mental Health at Work program, developed by Jane in partnership with colleagues, offers an inclusive approach to raise awareness of good mental health in the workplace. Anyone can be affected by mental health issues, from the MD to the new office junior, and everyone has the right to be supported says Jane.
“We offer an integrated approach, subscribing to normalising mental health, working with leaders and managers, training them in new and enhanced skills.”
“We are not offering diagnosis, that is between the individual and their GP, in the same way we wouldn’t diagnose a break without an x-ray. We are offering support, mentoring and to how to get to know employees, notice any changes and ask a question to see if they’re ok”.
Depression and anxiety present very differently in individuals and there are many symptoms. It is the conversation between manager and employee or colleagues that can be the key to supporting them in the workplace.
“Anxiety, like depression, is an illness, it’s not the same as feeling anxious about getting on a plane, or giving a presentation and it should be recognised as such” says Jane.
“People are different, some may want full disclosure, others don’t want anyone to know and that’s all fine, but it’s important to build trust and to have that relationship to stop and ask someone.”
Ultimately, Jane would like people to be able to be as open about their mental health as they are with physical health.
“It is an individual’s decision to be absent, whether with gastric flu or depression, and I’d like to feel the response would be equal, whatever someone told their employer, and not to ignore them when they’re back at work.”
“At Mental Health at Work we offer a programmatic, whole organization approach with our bespoke training. If we can reach 20% of the workforce, that might be all we need to make an impact in a company.”
“Promoting good mental health at work is a combination of understanding and awareness, a leadership skill set, belief, buy in and then embedding it as business as usual,” says Jane.
“I’ve seen the change a company can make through implementing our programme and it works. Success to me will be when Mental Health at Work initiatives are part of a broader organisation change. Talking about mental health in the work place, removes the stigma which is important, but we have to get the workplace culture right so that change is embedded in the long term and I want to play a role in that”