Regular visitors to the lang cat will know that we are keen to encourage people to talk about mental health. Many would agree that working in financial services can be stressful. The competitive environment and performance expectations can lead to long hours, poor work life balance and a “work hard / play hard” culture. Confessing that you’re struggling or need support has too often been seen as a sign of weakness and there’s still a stigma attached to admitting to mental health issues.

Things are changing – slowly. Businesses are increasingly keen to get involved in non-business issues as part of their marketing and communications activity. Mental Health Day is a perfect opportunity for firms to showcase corporate social responsibility and inclusivity in the workplace. But how can you make sure people don’t think you’re just virtue signalling and paying lip service to employee and customer mental health needs?

Talking about mental health is great, but to really break down taboos, we need to turn words into actions. Mental health awareness is for life, not just for World Mental health Day.

So, for what they are worth, here are our five suggestions on how to integrate mental health support into the workplace.

  1. Lead by example and show that it’s ok to not be ok by sharing mental health experiences – admitting that we all have times of personal struggle can be a real sign of hope and strength to someone who has been suffering in silence.
  2. Foster a supportive culture that encourages personal wellbeing alongside strong performance. Creating mental health champions across the workplace can help embed these values throughout a firm.
  3. Empower staff at all levels to support each other by building skills in empathy and listening without judgement or advice. It can be hard to know what to say, but often just giving someone the space to talk is the best way to help.
  4. Encourage everyone to look for and recognise the signs that someone might be struggling. Everyone is different, but common signs include poor concentration, excessive worrying, being easily distracted, low mood, mood swings, low energy, disinhibited behaviour, avoiding social contact, irritability and tearfulness.
  5. Put resources in place for training, promoting healthy behaviours and accessing counselling.

Every week, 1 in 6 adults experiences a common mental health problem such as anxiety or depression1 and almost 13% of all UK sickness absence days can be attributed to mental health conditions2. As well as improving employee wellbeing, better mental health support in the workplace could have a positive financial impact too, saving UK businesses an estimated £8 billion per year2.

Breaking down taboos around mental health issues in financial services is a cause close to the lang cat’s heart, but we’re not pretending to be experts. We all need to get better at this, so please let us know what you think financial services firms can do to improve the mental health support they offer staff and customers.

And if you’re struggling, please don’t suffer alone. Talk to your friends or family, talk your manager, talk to one of us at the lang cat, talk to the Samaritans on 116 123. Just talk to someone.