It’s such a lovely thing to be recognised and valued for the work you do by your colleagues, managers and department, but it is a particularly lovely when you’re recognised on a larger stage (quite literally) through an awards ceremony. I was lucky enough for that to be what happened to me when I won the Cabinet Secretary’s Inclusion Award in the 2018 Diversity and Inclusion Awards for my work raising understanding and awareness of mental health in the workplace and for bringing about a positive culture change in my department through this work.
I’ve been raising awareness and understanding of mental health issues at work since 2014 when I attended, almost by chance, a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) workshop. I completely connected with the issues I learnt about but immediately recognised that there was a huge gap in understanding and action within my department.
"[I] immediately recognised that there was a huge gap in understanding and action within my department."
My enthusiasm to do something to fill this gap was met, in equal measure, by the support I received from many colleagues and leaders in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and within six months I had become an accredited MHFA instructor and had delivered my first in-house MHFA workshop.
5 years on I have trained over 300 colleagues as Mental health First Aiders and now lead an amazing network of over 50 dedicated MHCLG Mental Health Ambassadors who provide a confidential listening and advice service to those who need it, including Line Managers who want to know how they can support their staff.
I have also designed and now deliver a programme of health and wellbeing related training workshops on subjects such as Mental Health Awareness, Building Personal Resilience and Disability Confidence which have enabled me to bring the subject of mental wellbeing to a wider audience. The training is so popular that I now work with a small team of knowledgeable and dedicated colleagues who help me to regularly deliver the workshops in MHCLG and other government departments.
I have also developed a suite of mental health and wellbeing support materials and have delivered a series of awareness raising initiatives and events such as ‘Break the Stigma’, ‘Time to Talk’, ‘World Mental Health Day’, ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ and ‘Health and Wellbeing Festival’. All of which have built a better understanding of the importance of good mental wellbeing, helped to de-stigmatise and de-mystify mental illness and helped to develop a better understanding of what support can be accessed.
"I think it's really great that so many new staff tell me how friendly, open and supportive they find MHCLG to be"
I think it’s really great that so many new staff tell me how friendly, open and supportive they find MHCLG to be and how much they appreciate the wellbeing support that is available to them.
There is so much this department is doing to support staff wellbeing – it’s such an active agenda. But there is much, much more we want to do. We’re currently focussed on establishing confident wellbeing conversations through the Confident Wellbeing Leaders programme which is helping everyone at every level to become more comfortable talking about how they are feeling and what’s important to them. Our aim is for everyone in MHCLG to flourish at work. I know this programme is rolling out across the Civil Service so I imagine that it is bringing about positive change in all departments.
I feel privileged to have been part of this movement which is making a real difference to people at work and I’m thrilled that my work has been recognised through the Civil Service Awards.
This year’s Diversity & Inclusion Awards are open for nominations until 3 May. Click here to submit your nominations.
There are eight nomination categories focusing on teams, individuals and projects which have championed D&I in the Civil Service. A new Championing Faith and Belief category has also been introduced – led by Clare Moriarty, DExEU permanent secretary, in her capacity as the diversity champion for faith and belief in the civil service – to emphasise our commitment to encouraging colleagues to bring their whole selves to work. Click here to learn more.