7 Tips To Promote A Positive Mental Health Culture

On Monday 23rd May 2022, our Managing Director, Mathew Bewley, delivered a talk at Manchester’s first Safety, Health & Wellbeing Live event, on promoting a positive mental health culture in the workplace.

We have put Mathew’s key takeaways together below for you to use to create a positive mental health culture in your business.

There is also a downloadable version which you can access here.

7 Tips To Promote A Positive Mental Health Culture

Positive Mental Health Culture

Mathew Bewley, owner and Managing Director at 3B Training, has suffered from anxiety and depression for most of his adult life and still does.

From when he was first diagnosed, Mat has been an advocate for promoting positive mental health in the workplace.

“I’m lucky enough to have a great support network outside of work, but promoting a positive culture in the workplace is really important, and that’s why I’ve chosen this topic today.”

Tip 1 – Decide on the kind of culture you want

“When I founded 3B, I used my experience in different jobs to make sure our mental health culture was positive and people could feel open and able to talk about it.

That’s my first key takeaway, culture is something you develop, you need to grow it, protect it, and put it above all else. Your culture needs to represent all of you and everyone needs to feel represented. If you have a good culture, you should be able to do an exercise in your business where you ask everyone to write down three words to describe the culture of the business. From this, you should get a strong sense of what the culture is and there should be similarities in those words.

You can then base all sorts around culture, such as core values and company ethos. All of your departments will feed off this and then the rest should look after itself. Remember, a culture often refers to a group, so don’t make the mistake of trying to develop or change a culture on your own – it’s a team effort!”

Tip 2 – Get your SLT to buy into what you’re doing

“Once you have a culture in mind, you need to surround yourself with key people to help you develop and agree that this culture is the correct one when it comes to the company’s mental health strategy. It’s important that you get your senior leadership team involved in this, making sure that there is buy-in from the Owners and Directors.

If you are part of an organisation that needs to make changes, you need to decide what those changes look like and what impact you expect those changes to have. Can you and the senior leaders visualise that change and what it will mean for the company? Remember, you may need to sell this!

You will want to paint a picture, a story, of what you want to achieve. Talk about a journey, where you are now, and where you want to be along with the steps you need to take. Keep it positive and link it back to mental health and the impacts it will have on the company as well as the individuals involved.

For me, there have been key points throughout which have helped me get the buy-in from the senior leadership team…

  • Involving the team in the creation of our core values
  • Team building events
  • Being open and honest, even if it meant me having to open up”

Tip 3 – Engage your workforce 

“For me, this is one of the most important steps you should take, and it’s what makes this work. Everyone has mental health so for this to work, you need to involve everyone. Don’t force it though, what you want are ideas, buy-in, engagement and involve the people that want to be involved. Everyone will have their own pre-conceptions, and it’s important to understand where people are currently. Engage with this non-judgementally if you want to move everyone in a positive direction.

Once you have the leaders of the company bought in, it will be your workforce that will drive the improvements and changes you have set out. Put your money where your mouth is – not literally – but don’t agree to do something and then don’t do it, you need to see it through! The best way to do this is to empower people to follow up on their ideas and don’t stop, mental health is continuous and never disappears. It is a constant hazard. Treat it like any other safety measure, and give it the attention it deserves.

Create things like a steering group where they can feed into what they would like to see the organisation do. Hold specific events raising money on behalf of mental health charities and ask the workforce to get involved, or better still, champion and support an employee to lead on something like this. My key point here is the more you involve the whole workforce, the more noise and positive energy you will create around mental health.

Tip 4 – Deliver training & follow up 

“Yes, deliver training. Of course, I am going to say that, but I believe in education as long as it’s appropriate.

First, you need to think about what training you need, how it will be perceived, why you are delivering it, and then plan it out.

If you decide to have Mental Health First Aiders, you then need to train the rest of the business on what they are there for, otherwise, what’s the point?

I spoke to a good friend recently who has just started as Head of Health & Safety for a company. In the induction, she was told that the company had eight Mental Health First Aiders, but that was it. No information regarding how to reach or contact them. You would be surprised, or possibly not, at how common this is.

Inductions, toolbox talks, signage, and newsletters are also key in helping you get the messages across. This will raise awareness but you can also use this to get employees involved in any activities that promote positive mental health.”

Read about our Mental Health First Aid course, view upcoming dates, and book online here.

Tip 5 – Promote open & honest discussion 

“If you can share your thoughts, people will share with you. It’s give and take. In my opinion, this is how it is. If you aren’t prepared to give a little, you can’t expect someone to either.

When I say you need to share, I don’t mean you have to spill a life story, but you might need to ask if someone is ok, and then ask again. Tell them that you have spotted a change in them and what that change is. It won’t be comfortable, it never is, but that’s ok. Honesty is crucial, make it the norm.

Create a place for people to talk, and make it comfortable. I don’t mean you need a chaise lounge, but just simply sitting down with someone in a quiet and private place. If you have a desk, sit at an angle to one another (not opposite) and try to be open. Train people to be Mental Health First Aiders, but don’t just expect this will happen naturally, ask if they would like to volunteer for this position.

Opening  up yourself  can also really change the dynamic of the team and the culture around mental health. This helps the team around you feel they can be open and honest about their feelings, creating a safe environment for discussion.”

Tip 6 – Look after yourself & your Mental Health First Aiders 

“Remember, everyone has mental health, including your MHFAs. It’s important you meet with them periodically to discuss how they are getting on with their role and juggling the day-to-day with the added expectation of being a Mental Health First Aider.

If they are struggling, understanding the reason why they are struggling is important. Does their line manager give them the time to be a Mental Health First Aider? Is something happening at work or personally, meaning they can’t take the extra load when someone needs their support?

Mental Health First Aiders also need to know where to go when they need support. There should be procedures in place that you all agree to.

Self-care is important, if you’re not looking after yourself, how can you support others? Lead by example. Speak to your line managers about what you need, and know what you can do to improve your own mental health.

I know that walking, boxing, listening to certain music and training the dogs can really improve my mental health.”

Tip 7- This is just the beginning

“Mental health never stops, so measures to support staff shouldn’t either. You can also potentially make things worse if you don’t set this up correctly. For instance, giving employees the impression that they can now approach Mental Health First Aiders without the correct support mechanisms can be really dangerous.

Monitor things like sickness and if there has been an improvement. Hold review sessions with your Mental Health First Aiders and discuss where improvements can be made. Review your policies, and are they still in line with what you want to achieve?

Research is also important, look for new initiatives that you could adopt. You don’t have to come up with all the ideas. Take a look at what other companies are doing to lead the way. FIKA is a Swedish term I have recently been made aware of, it’s a fantastic concept and it’s basically free. The concept is to encourage people to talk over coffee and cake – what’s not to love?

Provide feedback to everyone and make changes where you need to. Start from the beginning.

A lot of you will be familiar with PLAN, DO, CHECK, ACT. This process works in the same way. You can potentially pick this up at any point depending on your company.”

You can download Mathew’s key takeaways here.

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