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Meeting the Mental Health Challenge in Business in the UK - Can a New Academy for Mental Health Help?

26th February, 2020

Gregor Henderson



Recent research by Deloitte estimates that poor mental health costs UK employers £45 Billion a year and yet, the latest evidence shows that for every £1 invested by an employer in mental health, there is an average return of £5.

The crucial thing is what to spend your mental health £ on? The greatest asset a company has is its people. But which people and what learning and development might help them and the company?

In terms of people, it can be stating the obvious to say but it's a mix of those who have the right motivations, sense of purpose, willingness to help others and to push for changes that make a difference.

These people need to be able to empathise and have an authenticity that resonates with others. They need content knowledge about mental health and mental illness and everything in between.  

They need to know what’s out there, exposure to the evidence and different ways of seeing and doing things, knowing who to ask as well as an ability to build and maintain strong networks.

They also need good change management and transformation skills, along with personal and leadership development and coaching that enables them to have insights into themselves and others.

Finally, they need to know how to advocate and lead for change and how to put their passion into practice for the wider benefit of others.

Those people are out there for sure, it may be you or someone you know in your organisation. But finding the right course or learning and development opportunity to support and grow the right people talent in mental health is difficult.

In my time in mental health I have not yet seen a course that quite fits all the above.

Over the last 2 years I have been working with Zinc as a professional development experience on their Social Missions and now they have developed a learning and development programme called the Academy for Mental Health.

This aims to provide a new learning and development opportunity over a 9 month part time programme starting in April. The course information states its aims are to combine mental health knowledge and expertise with leadership and personal development goals in equal measure. The course also aims to expose participants to a range of modern thinking and evidence, alongside practical ways of making an impact.

Ellie Ford, who is organising the programme for Zinc told me;

“The course is a combination of mental health content, leadership development, coaching, personal development and managing change. The Academy is being designed to be a platform for growth in knowledge, awareness and impact in the mental health world alongside personal and professional growth and development. We have secured an impressive array of experts who will be providing course content and support from right across the mental health landscape, from organisational and transformational development, to personal development, coaching and leadership.”

Ellie said that applications have been coming in from people from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences who have an interest in mental health and particular topic areas within mental health.

Ellie added;

“Applicants have come forward as individuals, and we have been approached by employers willing to sponsor a place for one or more of their staff as a key learning and development opportunity and as a way of bringing expertise and leadership on mental health back into the organisation.”

Those clever folks at Zinc seem to be onto something here, perhaps something that can give people with a passion for mental health a platform that will help them, their organisation, their family and the communities they live in.

This could even be an investment not just for a company’s mental health but for wider society too.

I look forward to learning more and to hearing how the course goes and to seeing whether the proof of concept case is made and made well.


Gregor Henderson

Gregor Henderson is Strategic Mental Health Adviser to Zinc and Director of Mental Health at Public Health England @Gregorwell

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