Talking about mental health is essential in any workplace. Stigmas around common mental health issues like anxiety and depression have historically made it harder for people to get the support they need to address their problems.
Companies of all shapes and sizes have a duty to make provision for their employees’ mental health – just the same as they would for their physical health. Mental illness can affect anyone – it’s a normal part of life, and businesses should have plans in place to help employees improve their wellbeing.
For Kat Mason, a partner manager based in KCOM’s London office, this is far from theoretical. After recovering from a severe bout of anxiety in 2017, which had been impacting her work life, she felt it was important to do something constructive to help those experiencing similar issues. Well, she started at ‘something’ and then ended up at ‘three things’!
In March, Kat will climb the O2 in London; in May, she will abseil down the Northampton Lift Tower; and finally, as if that weren’t enough, she will scale Kilimanjaro in September, all to raise money for Mind, a charity that helps those struggling with mental illness.
“I’d never thought of myself as an ‘exercise’ person,” said Mason. “But following my experience with anxiety, I wanted to do something to make a difference. For me, it followed complications of cancer treatment which left me temporarily paralysed, and for me it was cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that helped me work through it. But there’s no set way of dealing with anxiety – Mind helps people find the best way for them to address the issue.
“I’m hoping to raise enough money to make a difference by taking on these challenges, but I also want to show people that it’s ok to not be ok. I hope my speaking out will help others to talk about mental health in a healthy way.”
At the same time, KCOM has recently reinforced its commitment to employee mental health by investing in training for 32 mental health first aiders, who are accredited by Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA). They will act as a listening ear for employees to open up about their stresses and anxieties, providing support when additional help is needed for issues affecting employees’ ability to work. As a confidential support, the mental health first aiders will act as an additional resource for employees dealing with mental health issues in the workplace.
KCOM’s mental health first aiders are able to recognise warning signs of mental ill health, and have the skills to empower others to access the support they might need for recovery or successful management of symptoms.
This is just the latest of many initiatives at KCOM to ensure employees are well supported. The company already offers a free 24-hour hotline to counselling services, as well as advice on everything from money to health. It also recently hired experts on nutrition and sleep to discuss with employees why they are so important to wellbeing and support good mental health.
“KCOM is an amazing place to work,” concluded Mason. “They provide support that I’ve not encountered anywhere else. Employee mental health should be a central concern for businesses – I’m pleased to be part of KCOM’s efforts to lead the way.”