Mental Health Awareness Week 2019: Asking for help is a sign of strength

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Ricky Alfred 15th May 2019 5 minute read

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019: Asking for help is a sign of strength

This week (13th-19th May) is Mental Health Awareness Week. Not only is Capita strongly supportive of the idea that everyone should be able to discuss their mental health freely, confidently, and with no fear of judgement, but we also see the courage in the stories told, says Ricky Alfred, Head of CSR at Capita Customer Management.

Everybody has a level of mental health that is sometimes good and sometimes bad. No one is immune. But even now it remains an issue that continues, wrongly, to carry a stigma. When you look at the research, many people still feel they cannot talk to their employers about their mental health because they believe those employers and their colleagues will feel differently about them; that they will be considered less capable because they asked for help.

And that’s where we need to shift the dial. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

To cope with what, for many of us, may be unimaginable pressures; to still turn up for work; to still carry on with your life; and then to share that story with other people and ask for help shows remarkable strength. I see no sign of weakness there at all. In fact when people come to their employers to say they feel their skills may need support, and they need help to do their job better, we praise them for taking such a positive step! We see it as a strength. Discussing mental health should be viewed in the same way.

It’s something we consider very important at Capita because we are, essentially, a people business. There are tens of thousands of employees in the Customer Management division alone. While people are becoming more comfortable talking about their mental health, particularly in the last couple of years, this is still an area where, as an organisation, we see a great opportunity to show a united front and help end this stigma.

How we’re encouraging the conversation

So this week we have a variety of activities in place to support Mental Health Awareness Week. Our This Is Me campaign has videos of a number of our colleagues talking about their own mental health challenges, and I defy anyone to watch those and not see the strength in those stories. We’re promoting our Employee Assistance Programme that we launched last year and which has been a great addition for our colleagues at Capita. It’s aimed at making it much easier for our employees to seek support for a number of things including to talk about their mental health, and for team leaders to seek support on their behalf and signpost them to help and advice.

We’re also looking at the important link between physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing. And particularly relevant for Capita Customer Management is the approach we take to vulnerable customers and how we support our own teams to take what can be extremely stressful calls.

We have more than 100 million customer contacts each year, and within that figure is a rising number of vulnerable customers where that vulnerability is born out of the fact that their mental health is low. Those contacts can include dealing with suicidal and pre-suicidal calls, and whilst we know our people do a fantastic job, this adds a layer of complexity to their work and, if unchecked, could easily have a negative impact on their own mental health.

So we’ve put in place training that not only helps our colleagues handle those calls and support the person on the other end of the phone to the best of their ability, but also gives them the resilience and coping techniques to ensure they don’t over burden themselves with the stress these very traumatic calls can create.

Finally on Friday we’re asking all our colleagues to wear green or a green ribbon in support of Mental Health Awareness Week and the This Is Me campaign. It’s a way of encouraging our people to share their own stories and talk more about the issue. If just one person walks away from this week ready to have a conversation and able to see a way out, then it’s been a success.

It’s all part of the whole self

One of Capita’s ambitions is for our people to bring their whole self to work. We have to recognise that sometimes our colleagues are living with a challenge that prevents them from doing that. We need to wrap support around them so that ‘whole self’ can emerge.

This is a major societal issue, much bigger than Capita, but part of ending the stigma around mental health is when organisations such as ours take steps to build the trust levels in our people so they know they can talk to us – and to show that we respect them for doing it, and that we see the levels of bravery and strength required to say: ‘I need help’.

 Find out more about the Green Ribbon campaign and help to #endthestigma around mental health.


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