https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2018/05/16/civil-service-support-for-mental-health-awareness-week-2018/

Civil Service support for Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

Head shot of Jonathan Jones
Jonathan Jones, Permanent Secretary of the Government Legal Department and Civil Service Health and WellBeing Champion

This week (14 to 20 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week. On Monday I attended a launch event organised by networks across a number of government departments. I’m delighted that we are supporting this week in a number of exciting ways across the Civil Service to help raise awareness and engage colleagues.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 graphicThis year, the hosts of the week, the Mental Health Foundation, are focusing on the theme of stress. Although stress itself is not a mental health condition, it is one of the biggest drivers behind poor mental health. Stress can affect us in all parts of our lives, both in and outside of the workplace. Whether it be financial, relationship or work-related stress factors, taking small steps to reduce the amount of stress we put ourselves under can increase our wellbeing and reduce mental ill health.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle by, for example, increasing physical activity, being more mindful and getting more sleep, can help to reduce stress levels and improve mental health and wellbeing.

Green Ribbon Campaign

During this week, the Civil Service is supporting the Green Ribbon campaign to help raise awareness and start conversations around mental health. Buildings across the UK are being lit up in green in support of raising awareness for mental health; and over 20,000 green ribbons are being worn across the Civil Service. You can see the reach of this campaign in the pictures below.

Exterior of building bathed in green light
The Home Office lit up green to support the Green Ribbon campaign
Charity collection outside Ministry of Defence
Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Elwood, with military and civilian staff from the MOD, all sporting Green Ribbon Campaign badges

Throughout this week, departments have shared the innovative activities they have been involved in to help raise awareness of mental health.

In my department, the Government Legal Department, we are running sessions in London and one of our regional centres, Leeds, on topics such as handling stress and anxiety, drop-in sessions with our Mental Health First Aiders, and wellbeing lunches.

MHCLG Health and Wellbeing Festival

Two men and women in stress management training
Stress management zone at MHCLG

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) are holding a Health and Wellbeing festival, with a variety of zones, including Posture, involving balance and stability exercises; Health, with drop-in mini-health checks; and Stress Management, which provides top tips on stress management and building resilience.

HMRC regional activities

Mental health charity members with posters
Members of the HMRC Manchester Mental Health Group

HMRC is hosting a variety of activities across its regional offices including: Curry and Chaat sessions in Ipswich and Glasgow; ‘meeting of minds’, to discuss how stress, anxiety and other mental health issues can affect a person’s ability to network effectively in the office environment; and market stall events across Bathgate, Cumbernauld, Ipswich, London, Newcastle and Nottingham.

Support available to you

If you need some support for your own mental health or some guidance in supporting a colleague with their mental health, there are lots of places you can turn to.

  • There are over 1,600 Mental Health First Aiders (or equivalent) across the Civil Service who can listen to any mental health concerns and point you to appropriate support.
  • All civil servants have access to an Employee Assistance Programme (or equivalent) that offers 24/7, 365-days-a-year support over the phone. Details of how to contact yours will be on your departmental intranet.
  • To provide support for managers, Mental Health: A Guide for Managers was recently developed in collaboration with the Cross Government Mental Health Network. This guide provides advice and guidance to managers when supporting employee mental health. Please refer to your departmental staff networks and HR teams for more information.

9 comments

  1. Comment by Sue Price posted on

    Broad diagnosis of a mental health problem gives an indication of what support is likely. However everyone is an individual with individual life experiences which can impact heavily on the current problems. Please remember that there is no one fit all solution. Listen, take note, and don’t treat like a child.

    Reply
  2. Comment by Jean McK posted on

    I think this is a very useful initiative, but there should be stress-busting activities on-site all year round. This week, I went to excellent taster sessions for Tai Chi, De-stressing at Your Desk (seated yoga), nutrition, and a 15-minute massage. (At a previous job, we had free Tai Chi sessions twice a week and had a masseuse who came in once a week and charged a very low fee for a 30 minute session, subsidised by the company.) A stress-free workforce is more productive - and the government has been worrying lately about the drop in productivity. One way to address this?

    The other interesting thing I noticed was that there were about 15 women at these sessions, but only one man. I hear men in the office complaining about long hours and stress often, but they don't take advantage of initiatives like this often. Men are far more likely to report experiencing work-related stress than women. A survey in March found that half of male respondents cited stress as a problem, compared with just over a third (38%) of women, but men are more likely to distract themselves, often by using alcohol or drugs, rather than addressing the stress itself. There needs to be a positive encouragement to take part and we should see senior managers acting as role models.

    Reply
  3. Comment by SDT posted on

    Sadly stress is ignored at our premises as management deems the work being processed (even at impossible levels) as taking priority over mental health. In fact some people who have suffered significant symptoms of stress have been pushed into breakdowns by the action of management to their mental health. They themselves are pressured from above who also do not seem to care about mental health other than when it becomes lip service to try to play that there is concern.

    Reply
  4. Comment by ANM posted on

    It would be useful to see what impact these initiatives have on actual sick management in terms of trigger points and other prescriptive measures, still in full swing.

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  5. Comment by susan guinivan posted on

    As a MHFA based in Coventry i can say this new initatiive is working, people now have staff thy can speak with, and a well being romm is being created at One Chylesmore later this month. I can see things only getting better, we all need to look after ourselfs more health and work wise. If work pressures are getting too hard then a chat to someone dows help.

    Reply
  6. Comment by TGR posted on

    It is worth remembering that while the impact of stressful situations will be experienced by individuals in various ways, the source of the stress is often in the wider environment - which includes the workplace. You can treat air pollution by issuing everyone with gas masks or inhalers, but it doesn't actually address the problem.

    Reply
  7. Comment by dayo posted on

    Very cheesy question but when is their going to be a on site psychologist
    it be nice to know you can lay on the sofa have a quick talk with someone professionally and jump basck into the office ready to give it a go to saty positive. I know it cost a fortune but could save so many staff from thinking its over I cannot take it any more..... it goes with the 2030 move forward with the rest of the working world ...

    Reply
  8. Comment by Look in the mirror posted on

    As well as activities to encourage staff to look after their own mental health Depts, should look at their culture and management and recognise when the workplace is the root cause of stress. Depts should also look at how they treat staff showing signs of stress and support them, not report them for unprofessional behaviour. Displaying signs of stress should not be a disciplinary offence, yet that seems to be the case in my Dept. Even talking to other people about stress, as direct management wouldn't take notice, is frowned upon - you must not involve other people in your problems.
    'Its Good to Talk'.... hmmmmm......

    Reply
  9. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you Jonathan for your continued support as the Civil Service wellbeing Champion and for promoting MHAW. It is really encouraging to see how the various Departments has look to promote this.

    I would very much agree with the comment above in that like with Time to Talk Day, the discussion concerning Mental Health should not just be on a specific day or week each year about should be all year around.

    Reply

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