Written by
Kathryn Austin

Published
11 May 2017

Are you surviving or thriving? What you can do to support this Mental Health Awareness Week

11 May 2017 • by Kathryn Austin

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week – an annual campaign that aims to raise awareness of mental health issues and break down the barriers to talk more openly about mental wellbeing.  

This year, the movement hopes to promote conversations around how people can thrive and not just survive when it comes to their mental wellbeing. For many, life can be a daily struggle with an increasing number of people regularly experiencing high levels of anxiety, stress and depression. What's more these issues can be exacerbated when combined with the pressures of working life, leaving many unsure of where to turn. 

Indeed, research tells us that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, but less than half feel comfortable raising problems with their employer. We want this to change. 

Playing an active role in normalising mental health

As HR professionals, we can play an active role in tackling mental health in the workplace. By creating an open and supportive culture, we can help build a more happy and healthy workforce for the future. Not only does this make business sense, it’s also the right thing to do. That’s why, at Pizza Hut Restaurants, we’re proud to be taking positive and deliberate steps to support employee wellbeing. 

We know it’s never easy to talk about mental health problems at work but by driving awareness within our organisation, we can help to normalise conversations and give employees the confidence to speak out. One of the ways we hope to achieve this is through our internal communications platform, Yammer. For example, we recently launched a campaign called ‘No Shame’ where employees were encouraged to speak out about topics including mental health to lessen the stigma attached.  

It's ok to say "I am struggling"

In addition, it’s crucial for businesses to understand and be able to empathise with their workforce. We employ more than 8,000 people ranging from 16 year olds to staff who have been with us for over 30 years. Some may be juggling university work at the same time, others may have family commitments – it’s important for us to be aware of these pressure points and to create a culture that says it’s ok to put your hands up and say I’m struggling.

One of the ways we aim to achieve this is through training. For people to really thrive in their roles, you need to teach them more than just the technical skills. We know that working in a restaurant environment can be high pressure and demanding at times. For many it’s also a very public facing role – which means you can’t just hide behind your desk if you’re having a bad day. That’s why we dedicate part of our training to behavioural and emotional development. 

Through our partnerships with HeartStyles and the School of Life our employees are encouraged to tackle issues such as anxiety and depression. The training also teaches managers how to relate to, show compassion and connect with their team. This creates an environment of trust where people feel more comfortable raising issues when they happen. 

Furthermore, we seek support through our charity partner Mental Health UK which enables us to recommend support groups and resources to help employees get back on track and manage their mental health issues.

Putting mental health on the business agenda

There’s no doubt tackling the stigma around mental health feels more topical and pressing than ever, thanks to high profile figures such as Prince Harry and Lady Gaga who are helping to shine a spotlight on the issue. But it’s important for us as businesses to recognise the role we can play in helping our employees to not only survive but also thrive when it comes to their mental wellbeing. 

We’re certainly proud to be one of 500 signatories of the Time to Change pledge – a movement which aims to change the way we act and think about mental health in the workplace. If we do one thing this week, let’s consider what we can do as HR professionals to drive positive change within our organisation and put mental health firmly on the business agenda.