Today, in our industry, mental health matters

By Lis Field

19th April 2017

I’m a hundred miles away from being a fan of the Royals. I get their place in British history, but I don’t like what they represent today or the fact that my hard-earned wedge pays for their lifestyle.

But I am a massive fan of what Princes Harry and William have done this week. They have turned the spotlight – normally trained to catch them at their weakest – onto a subject usually kept in quiet, dark corners full of solitude.  Having the courage to talk about one’s own mental health is one thing. Doing it in front of the world’s media and knowing it’s going to be discussed for weeks, is altogether something else.

In a move that looks remarkably timed to jump on the Princes’ bandwagon, (you’ll be familiar with my bandwagon-jumping by now), Eulogy has launched a series of internal workshops geared around mental wellbeing in the workplace. It’s inspired in part by the PRCA’s efforts to raise the volume on this issue for our industry; and also by the larger conversation that is taking shape across the country, for which the Royals have acted as a giant megaphone.

We have worked with Stretching the City (the workplace wellbeing experts) to better understand what mental health and mental illness is, and how we can all help each other navigate the highs and lows of working in a pretty high pressured and fast-moving industry.

Ten years ago I would have scoffed at such a thing. What am I saying; two years ago I probably did scoff at such things. But the thing about lines on faces and years under belts is the simple recognition that today, in our industry, this shit matters.

Our first workshop took place this week, designed to help our senior team understand better the challenges to mental wellbeing in the workplace often provides. The pitfalls. The language we use to cover up, to excuse our behaviour or lack of support. How we mock. Dehumanise. Hide.

And therein sat my first problem. When working with the Stretching the City team to formulate these sessions, I kept getting stuck on what to call them. Do we call them mental health workshops? Won’t that put people off? Doesn’t ‘mental health’ imply a negative? If we acknowledge that mental health is a topic for workplace support, aren’t we admitting that we’re failing our gang somehow in the first place?

Ah. That’s the point, isn’t it? To call a spade a spade? To acknowledge that the health of our minds is just as – surely more – important than the health of our limbs and organs.

We have an amazing, talented gang at Eulogy. Some of us have to work harder on our mental health than others. And some of us have to work harder on it than any individual ever should.

Knowing this to be true is one thing. But like all knowledge, it’s useless if not used.

So we are spending some of our precious time – stretched though it is – to focus on ourselves and on each other. This goes beyond the formal and informal line management, buddy and one-on-one support we already provide. This is not about our jobs, our clients, or how we work better together. And its more than the many relaxed and easy social moments we galvanise around, glass in hand.

It’s about learning not just how to ask the question, but how to listen to the answer. To really listen. To learn ways in which to first understand the challenges our minds have in juggling life today, and then to help find ways to make that challenge a little easier to overcome.

We won’t ever get it perfect. We will fail some people, I know it. But if we achieve nothing more than simply raising the subject and being able to have honest discussions about how we are feeling, and why we are feeling it, then that’s a good day in my book. And hopefully an even better day in someone else’s.