World Mental Health Day (Thursday 10 October) was an annual reminder of the importance of looking after our mental health, and the intrinsic role that talking honestly about mental health can play to our mental wellbeing.
At Anglo American, this is a conversation which we believe should last the whole year round. Yet, despite 1 in 4 of us being affected by mental illness in our lifetimes, mental health remains a difficult and uncomfortable discussion topic, for many. Only 44 per cent of respondents to a recent survey by BITC, for example, said they would feel comfortable talking to their managers about their mental health. The problem may be even worse amongst younger employees. Over 63 per cent of those who took part in a survey carried out by Business Disability Forum, last year, said that they would not be comfortable talking about their mental health at their place of work or study.
Along with our individual circumstances and our external environment, work can be a major contributor to our mental health – both good and bad. Businesses therefore have a critical role to play in seeing mental health as a shared responsibility.
We can help to do this by creating an inclusive environment and at Anglo American we believe this must be one where everyone can bring their whole selves to work.
We know that leadership and business commitment are critical enablers to develop and sustain an environment that supports a mentally healthy workplace for everyone, and this is why internally we have put in place a significant wellbeing offering.
But we know that promoting mental wellness on its own is not enough. We also need to consider the steps we can take to prevent and respond effectively and early to mental ill-health and we have made this a key aspect of our Global Mental Health Framework.
Colleagues experiencing mental illness need the support of trained managers and HR practitioners whose actions are guided by comprehensive and informed policies. In turn, managers need to know that their own needs are being supported by leadership.
For this reason, Anglo American recently chose to partner with Business Disability Forum on the development of a series of best practice resources and guidance intended to help other organisations seeking to develop their own mental health framework.
We hope the resources will help organisations of all sizes to understand the importance of mental wellbeing and the actions they can take and should take to create a healthy workplace.
Poor mental health left unchecked can escalate, impacting on the individual, the team and the wider organisation. It therefore makes sense that promoting mental wellbeing is everyone’s business.
Stephen Pearce is Group Finance Director at Anglo American