Victoria Hornby, CEO, Mental Health Innovations
There’s no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a wide and deep impact on the mental health of the UK population. Loneliness and a corresponding loss of emotional support has become much more common, and the stress and anxiety of this protracted, turbulent period has taken its toll on large swathes of the working population, particularly among young adults.
What’s clear is that employers now have even more reason to take their employees' mental wellbeing into consideration. There’ll be a need to support employees who have faced an incredibly difficult year as they gradually ease back into workplaces that may look and feel very different and into working patterns that will inevitably have changed.
A key issue is that the workplace is often not a space where people feel comfortable revealing details of how they’re feeling or talking to colleagues about their mental health.
In fact at Mental Health Innovations we've found that more than half (52%) of those who were currently employed wouldn't feel able to talk to their manager about their mental health. This evidence points towards a clear need for a shift in how we think about supporting our colleagues, and how we can make space for open conversations in the workspace.
Facilitating positive conversations about difficult subjects is something that Mental Health Innovations knows a lot about.
We run Shout 85258, a free, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. So far we have held more than 700,000 conversations with texters who have been in need of ‘in the moment’ support from our 2500 volunteers.
The training that we give our Shout Volunteers centres on the immense power of a positive conversation. The conversations our volunteers have with the people who contact us in a moment of need have a huge and sometimes life changing impact.
Our volunteer survey shows that:
- 84% of volunteers feel that their training has helped them to become better listeners
- 84% believe that volunteering with Shout has helped them to see things from other people’s perspectives
- 86% of our volunteers say that the skills they have learnt with us have helped them to feel more comfortable handling difficult situations in their everyday lives
- Overall 91% feel that they are better parents, partners, friends and colleagues
Since launch we have trained close to 7,000 volunteers, giving them the skills to talk to individuals who are often distressed and overwhelmed. Shout Volunteers are trained to build a rapport with texters, listen to their issues with empathy and warmth and identify positive ways forward. Many tell us that they have harnessed the skills and confidence they have learnt with us to take their next steps at work and to pursue new avenues and opportunities.
These findings indicate that sharing the conversation skills that support thousands of our texters daily can provide a foundation to improve well being in the workplace. With the understanding that good conversations are the foundation of wellbeing at work, we’ve partnered with our friends at Hive Learning, the peer learning platform that specialises in helping organisations create and sustain culture change.
Together we have built Mental Health Works, an incredible new learning programme for enterprises that’s all about learning the art of a good conversation.
Through Mental Health Works we’re proud to share the eight critical skills every leader, manager, and employee should learn to create a positive, open and supportive workplace.