Bringing Time To Change to Wonder.

Date

Oct 24, 2019

At Wonder we want to help break the silence and end the stigma around mental health. One in four of us will be experiencing a mental health problem at any one time. Nine in ten people who have experienced a mental health problem have faced negative treatment from others as a result. And we want our staff to feel supported if they are affected by these issues, and able to open up and ask for help from friends and colleagues.

That’s why today we signed the Time To Change Employer Pledge, making a commitment to changing the way we think and act about mental health at every level of our company. Time to Change is England’s biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination and is run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. This is something I feel personally passionate about and we want to share our commitment.

I myself have been affected by mental health, on more than one occasion. My first encounter was when my Dad had a nervous breakdown at the age of 47 and unfortunately couldn’t ever return to work. Seeing someone you love so dearly struggle for such a long period of time was hard for our family to deal with.

The second time it affected me personally. I was 25 years old and one of the managers at the Ministry of Sound Club. I had worked promoting club nights since I was 18 and loved dance music. It was a dream job. However, after a couple of years it turned into a nightmare. I worked every Friday and Saturday night until around 7am, which meant I slept during the weekend days. Working those very antisocial hours meant I lost touch with friends, became isolated and started to hate the job I once loved. I didn’t want to admit it to anyone, including myself, and in turn became depressed and withdrawn. Looking back, I think the experience I had with my Dad helped me open up about how I felt to friends and eventually my boss, who was incredible and very supportive. Taking a few weeks off helped me realise I had to change my job, which was really hard to accept. But after a six month stint at an events agency, I was able to return to the Ministry of Sound in a different role, working only during the week.

Over the years, I’ve learned to identify the signs of being stressed and unhappy, and I deal with them immediately. I know now that it’s a lot easier to deal with mental health as soon as you think there is a problem – rather than push it to one side and let it grow into a bigger issue. Which is why it’s so important to create a workplace environment where everyone feels able to open up. In order to sign the Pledge we submitted an action plan detailing what we will do to ensure that our company is doing what we can to raise awareness and support everyone at the company.

As part of our Pledge signing, we were also lucky to welcome Time to Change Champion and Mentor Runa Uddin into the office today, to talk about the importance of wellness in the workplace. We took the opportunity to ask her about her experience, the stigma around mental health and how we can best support each other.

Today you have joined us in making our commitment to Time To Change. What does Time To Change mean to you?

Time to Change isn’t just a campaign for me, it’s something that saved my life. I spent years struggling with my mental health, not recognising the symptoms or indeed knowing that I can talk about it – which is why I went without support for so long. Working for Time to Change and understanding how mental health affects us all was life changing for me. I don’t think I was unique in continuing on and I want to be part of something that changes that for everybody – that is how we all think and act about mental health including our own.

Why do you think people still experience stigma around mental health?

Statistically we know that people experience negative reactions when they share and that’s what makes them less likely to speak out which perpetuates stigma. However speaking up about mental health struggles can be frightening, I definitely felt vulnerable and so it’s a huge step to take as it is, especially in the face of uncertainty and how others might respond. So I guess it’s also around how we perceive that others would see us. Stigma exists in us all and is reflected in our society so we need to start addressing it in ourselves as we start to challenge it in our society.

What's the best way we can all change the way we think and act about mental health in the workplace?

Honestly – just by being honest about what it’s like for us. I think people get hung up on diagnosed conditions, but you don’t have to have a diagnosis to experience the full spectrum of mental health. It’s like physical health it can change on a day-to-day basis and so its ok to not be ok. However in those times we aren’t ok we don’t tend to talk about it. Sharing our experiences and our stories are powerful simply because they give others permission to share their experiences and stories. And perhaps the most powerful thing at least for me is that everyone who shares is an instant role model in that they overcame it and so can others.

How do you recognise the signs of someone suffering in the workplace?

Poor Mental Health lands on people differently so one persons “anxiety” might look different to another’s. However we don’t have to be diagnostics to check in with someone and see if they are ok, or if they need signposting onto support. Having said that if you notice the following things about your colleague, I would encourage you to check in with them and see if they are ok or not as the case maybe.

a) If you notice your colleagues behaviour change in what feels like a big way to you
b) If you notice there are inconsistencies in the way they are working
c) If you notice they are struggling to make decisions big or small
d) If you notice their moods fluctuating
e) If you notice that they appear tired, withdrawn and anxious and have mentioned that they are not sleeping well
f) If you notice that they are struggling to focus on tasks / work

What are the best ways to help someone suffering with mental health in the workplace?

Showing someone you care and letting them know you are available with a listening ear should they want to talk. In my experience, it was a really confusing time and I really struggled to describe what was happening to me so being listened to with empathy and patience really helped me.

I would also add that beyond talking and signposting – to avoid the conversation being solution focused as in “have you tried running, or mindfulness etc etc” some of those suggestions are easier to do when you are coming from a place of wellness. I found that when I was struggling I couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

I also feel that some understanding when listening really helps. For example, I struggled with Depression and I know many think it’s about low mood or sadness. In my experience, it was more the absence of mood – I felt like I was a zombie, Depression robbed me of the skills and abilities to overcome it, so suggested ideas like running or mindfulness just would not have registered – patience and understanding and empathy shown by others helped me to model that for myself.

Find out more about Time to Change and get involved.