Mental Health Awareness Week 2024

This week is an opportunity for the whole of the UK to come together to focus on getting good mental health. This week (13-19 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week 2024. It is an opportunity for the whole of the UK to come together to focus on getting good mental health. The week aims to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health and to help people understand and prioritise their and others’ mental health.  The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 is ‘Movement: Moving more for our mental health’.

To mark this, we asked some of our members and colleagues to share their thoughts with us. Read just some of their perspectives below.

What does wellbeing at work mean to you?

Wellbeing to me is getting up each day without any apprehension or stress regarding the day ahead.  Wellbeing is sleeping well without waking up thinking about what lies ahead for your working day. Wellbeing is not dreading switching on your computer to see what is in your inbox.  Wellbeing is not feeling the urge to check your work mobile after you have logged off (!). 

Scott Giles, EA to CEO & Marketing Director, Farnborough International

To me, wellbeing at work doesn’t just mean to come in on a morning with a positive attitude, but it also means that you can manage your feelings and stresses at work, whether they are caused by workplace or personal issues. Health and safety at work is so important and here at CAV we are so proud of our record in this area, but it goes beyond the physical. CAV is equally committed to supporting mental wellbeing. This is something I am incredibly passionate about, and I was honoured to become one of the company’s Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) last year.

Thomas Barnaby, Marketing Assistant, CAV Systems 

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Wellbeing at work means being able to do my job properly. Sometimes life impacts your work and having that recognised and validated means a great significance. Just being able to articulate what I need to help me is a huge step for me. Knowing I can speak out to someone I trust and who is in a suitable position makes me feel comfortable and increases my morale.

Yvonne Gibson, PA to MD & Security Controller, JD2E

What advice would you give to a colleague that is struggling with their mental health?

We are all different, what works for one person does not necessarily work for others. I would encourage them to speak to someone they feel comfortable around, if that happens to be me, I encourage them to talk, give them time to tell their story and actively listen while resisting the urge to jump in to respond and offer advice. I would offer reassurance, stay calm, don’t assume, and look to maintain contact with the employee by agreeing on touch points. 

Jayne Crossan, HR Partner, Raytheon UK

It takes incredible strength to acknowledge you have an issue and even more to seek help.  There is a great deal of support out there for you, but if we don’t know somethings broken, we can’t start to fix it. Equally though, if you can see someone who is struggling and things just don’t seem right, then ask them. That one conversation could have a lasting change or impact on someone’s life. The old phrase of “man up” simply doesn’t exist anymore. Mental health is seen an especially important, just like any other health condition. 

Gareth Johnson, Senior Manager – Estimating, Marshall UK

When listening to a colleague that might be struggling with their mental health, I would signpost where support can be found. This could be the Employee Assistance Programme, Vitality or Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA). I would also place an emphasis on the importance of remaining active. Just listening and joining for a walk, run or cycle can have such a positive impact. 

The advantage of speaking to a MHFA is that they have had training and have volunteered for the role, you know that you are not a burden and we want to help.

Adam Doyle, SME Success Manager, ADS

What 'movement' activities do you do to benefit your mental health?

I do not do enough movement activities but on my lunch breaks I try to go out for a walk. It allows me to get fresh air and a change of scenery. This is great for the workday, and I approach the rest of the day with a fresher mindset. Movement activities are good for your mental health but there is no one size fits all, you must find what works for you. 

Yvonne Gibson, PA to MD & Security Controller, JD2E

The main movement activities I do consist of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training, dance and yoga. Getting time to exercise is a core benefit to my mental health and is essential. I also love walking, if I’m struggling with a work situation/challenge and have hit a roadblock I tend to go on a walk. This helps me think more creatively and come to a fresh solution. 

Sian Breckin, Business Support Manager, UK Defence Solutions Centre

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Personally, to benefit my mental health I exercise throughout the week. This includes going for outdoor runs. Getting going can be tough, but I love being out in the fresh air, and it really helps to lift my spirits and help me think clearer. I also enjoy going to the gym. It is important to me to look after my physical health, and the feeling of satisfaction I get when I finish a session is so rewarding. It really does boost my self-esteem and mental wellbeing.

Thomas Barnaby, Marketing Assistant, CAV Systems

Have you had any stand-out experiences with supporting better mental health in your career?

In previous roles I have been trained as an assessor, and involved in Trauma Risk Management (TRiM). I volunteer for Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue where I am one of the TRiM leads. It is an important role that I feel I will carry with me for life. I would say my stand-out experiences are when colleagues reach out to say thank you. It always feels worthwhile knowing that just having someone to talk to has helped benefit their mental health. 

Jon Gray, Director – Security & Resilience, ADS

In a previous company my mental health suffered through an incident at work. I spiralled and my Mental Health declined significantly, which was then compounded by the impact this had on my physical health. At the time I couldn’t see a way out, I didn’t feel I could speak to anyone, nor was there any support network in place at work, which we now take for granted. 

Gareth Johnson, Senior Manager – Estimating, Marshall UK

I have felt completely overwhelmed on a couple of occasions throughout my career. The actions I take which work for me are; having time away my desk, slowing my breathing down and taking a couple of minutes to think. I try to write everything I had to do down on paper in no particular order, prioritise what I absolutely had to do that day, and don’t beat myself up for not completing all tasks. Most importantly I am kind to myself.

Jayne Crossan, HR Partner, Raytheon UK

Do you have any tips for someone looking to improve their mental health?

Firstly, you need to acknowledge that it is not always easy, and it will be a journey. I think the priority should always be to look after yourself, it’s difficult to be there for others if you’re not well yourself. Spend time to become aware of what you need to achieve and take those needed steps to prioritise yourself.  Selfish is not a bad word!  Eat healthy, look after you finances, and try and have fun where you can. Laughter truly is the best medicine!

Valerie Lewis, Head of HR, ADS Group

I could talk about hobbies, the importance of moving around, and that having distractions helps. But pinning things on distractions, the discipline required to exercise regularly, and the motivation needed to constantly work on yourself is unrealistic. Sometimes your mental health may be bad enough that you can’t fathom doing any of those things at all. 

Instead, I would say that it’s important to realise that it is not a sprint, it is a marathon, and it takes time. I was prescribed anti-depressants for years, and it was only when it clicked that they were not the right solution for me that I turned a real corner with it. I still have down days and weeks sometimes, but that is normal. Each journey will be different, and every tool you hear or learn about might not be for you – that’s fine. Keep trying, and you’ll get there. Plato (apparently) said that “Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow… even if that someone is yourself!” You will get there. 

Ben Cole, Content Lead & Consultant, Ardesey Ltd

What does Mental Health Awareness Week mean to you?

As a Mental Health First Aider, Mental Health Awareness Week is a great opportunity to reflect on how we can all as individuals and companies make changes to help others and our organisations. To allow people to be comfortable with their Mental Health, a company needs to allow employees to feel that they can bring their whole selves to work. I am proud of our culture at ADS, where we aim to operate an open, inclusive and welcoming environment to all – where our employees, members and anyone we encounter feels comfortable to bring their whole selves to the conversation.

Although no human is the same as any other, as a society we can be conditioned to see only the drawback of those who are different, and not appreciate the amazing strengths that might not be immediately visible. According to the NHS, approximately 1 in 7 of the UK population are neurodivergent.

Neurodiverse individuals represent a large talent pool that we are not appreciating, particularly in STEM heavy sectors such as those that ADS represent. Several schemes are starting to emerge to help employers learn about and embrace greater inclusion of neurodiversity, such as Autistica’s Neurodiversity Employers Index

I’d love to hear from others in my network on how they have embraced neurodiversity, how you’ve gone about it and the results you have experienced. We’re here to support companies on their journey – and we can only do that by learning about, adopting and embracing leading practices ourselves!

John Copley, Chief Operating Officer, ADS