My first impressions
I attended the recent Mad World Summit as someone who has experience of depression, and who works hard to change perceptions and stop stigma surrounding mental ill-health in the workplace. As the Summit got closer, I saw all the effort that had gone into the preparations and how serious big companies are about changing things. On the day, I felt positive that everyone who attended would feel the same way.
As I arrived, I felt proud that my badge said Mental Health Ambassador and that I was helping to make a difference. I was surprised and pleased at the same time to explain to a few people about the work that I do as an Ambassador.
The summit was set in a good location in the heart of the City of the London and there were a lot of companies promoting their products and services that I hadn’t heard of, which was great. But what struck me was the organisation and hard work that had gone into putting on the event and that it felt right attending. I was given a brochure with a guide to how the day would go. It also outlined the speakers and the topics that would be covered.
The Bupa Breakfast
Although the breakfast was lovely it was great that straightaway things turned serious. There were a few presentations about young people and what is impacting their mental health. With influential speakers from Young Minds and others, there were a lot of statistics given about apprentices and young people that shocked me. I couldn’t help thinking about my own teenager at home.
I was impressed by how committed all individuals and companies were and keen to learn more. It was good to hear what companies were doing to improve their employees’ wellbeing and about techniques that are being used in other European countries as well.
One recommendation that stuck in my mind was the setting up of a mental health and wellbeing working group to include a cross-section of staff and representatives with lived experience of mental health problems. It was suggested that the working group could act as workplace wellbeing champions. They could also be responsible for developing strategy, reviewing policies, procedures and staff information and for setting up new initiatives.
I was also interested to hear that one company carries out a stress assessment with its employees each year.
The speakers’ impact
After going through a little bit of exercising, we were introduced to what was planned and the topics to be discussed. All the speakers spoke with passion. I listened to them intently and made a mental note to take something positive away with me from each presentation. Every speaker wanted to focus on a different point whether it be that HR needed to change or companies could not just put out fruit and call it a wellbeing day.
I think that the speakers were direct but people attending needed to be told that change must happen. I remember a speaker announcing statistics that were designed to not only shock but also to inspire attendees to take action when they went back to their offices.
I thought that the idea of signing up to discuss different topics was good. I joined another David who I had got to know on social media and we discussed the signs of suicide and prevention. I shared my own experience and my own thoughts with others and we agreed that it wasn’t easy to spot the signs of suicide. It was a good and frank discussion about a topic which is still very much taboo.
What I learnt and hope for next year
Having attended the Mad World Summit I very much hope to be given the chance to attend next year. It was a great day and I met many people who I had only contacted online or through email. I felt proud to have met these people and made sure that they know I am here to provide support if needed.
I came away thinking that we all have a lot more work to do and that there are still many who are not comfortable opening at work about mental health. Many Line Managers are not able to have conversations about mental health and many employees still must lie about having time off through stress.
But I don’t want to end this without saying how proud I am to have attended. Also huge thanks to everyone who made this Summit possible. Next year I want to see more progress, with employees not having to lie if they are struggling with stress and more positive news about our mental health in the workplace.
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