Region’s business community turns green to help end stigma of mental health

Andy Burnham

Employers from across the North West will come together to wear green ribbons this week in a new drive to end the stigma of talking about mental health in the workplace.

Businesses, including Barclays, Manchester Airports Group, PwC, Sellafield and United Utilities along with football clubs and mental health charities, make up some of the organisations coming together to demonstrate to their employees that it is important to talk about mental health.

‘This is Me’ launches in Manchester today, May 14, to coincide with the start of Mental Health Awareness Week.

A launch event is taking place at the Hilton Deansgate with guest speaker Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, who supports the campaign.

This is Me challenges the stigma around mental health at work and aims to break the culture of silence by supporting people to tell their own stories.

The campaign was created by Barclays in association with the Lord Mayor’s Appeal in the City of London and this is the first time the campaign will be launched outside the capital.

Karen Johnson, head of large corporates for Barclays in the North West said: “Approximately one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year and by 2030 the estimated cost of staff mental health related issues is set to rise to £32.7bn.

“As responsible businesses we all have an obligation to get involved and take an active interest in the wellbeing of our staff whilst creating environments where those in need can get the help and support required both now and in the future.”

Andy Burnham said: “Good mental health is fundamental to all our lives – an essential and precious resource that needs to be protected and enhanced.

“That’s why I’m pleased to be supporting This is Me, which is now being rolled out across Greater Manchester – showing once again how we are leading the way by being the first city region outside of London to adopt the campaign.

“In Greater Manchester we know that poor mental health has a huge impact on the quality of people’s lives.

“It also presents a major challenge to increasing business productivity.

“For these reasons, improving workplace mental health plays a key role in our ambitions for improved wellbeing and growth across the city region.”

He added: “For responsible employers in Greater Manchester and the North West of England, this tool offers a vital opportunity to normalise conversations about mental health, build an open and supportive culture, and contribute to the health and happiness of their workforce, allowing them to thrive.”

Christine Meakin, a female director at Barclays in Cheshire, suffered from stress and exhaustion in 2014 and feared that she would never return to work.

She said: “I never thought I’d be someone who’d suffer from anxiety or stress – I thought I was too strong.

“But the reality is that it’s not about being strong, it’s about being honest with yourself and not being afraid to admit when you need help.”

She added, “I hope that by sharing my story I can help others who are struggling with their mental health.

“By talking about mental health issues we reduce the stigma around it and we normalise it.

“And when we normalise mental health we take a huge step towards making things better.”

In a separate report today it is claimed that more small business owners are now suffering mental health problems because of the increase in late payments.

Research commissioned by The Prompt Payment Directory (PPD), a payment rating website for businesses, found that the number of SME business owners struggling financially and suffering from mental health issues as a result, has risen dramatically since last year.

Half of SME owners’ businesses – 23% more than last year – have been on the brink of bankruptcy or liquidation, or could be soon due to late payments, with 52% – also nearly a quarter more than last year – blaming poor cash flow for their panic attacks, anxiety and depression, with some even having suicidal feelings and experiencing emotions of severe anger.

Out of the half of SME business owners now suffering from health related issues due to late payments, 44% suffer from stress, 40% struggle with insomnia, 19% experience depression and 17% experience anxiety and panic attacks.

Also, 14% admit to having ‘extreme anger’ while the remaining stated issues such as having suicidal feelings, self-harm, eating problems and paranoia.

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