Teresa Payne: What is the role of employers in removing the stigma around mental health?

People are at the heart of most businesses and looking after wellbeing is essential for us all to be able to thrive, be happy, and bring our best selves to work.

Removing the stigma around mental health in the workplace is an important part of a firm’s overall people strategy. As well as promoting a happy, healthy and productive workforce, an established strategy in this area is beneficial in attracting and retaining talent. A positive balance between work, health, and outside interests is increasingly important for people when choosing a prospective employer.

Placing mental health firmly on the workplace agenda is a great start and it is then the responsibility of everyone in the business to create an environment that is understanding and supportive. Senior people in any firm have a huge role to play; they should lead by example and help people reach their full potential whatever their individual circumstances.

We can all recognise there are times when people are not feeling themselves and we need to show individuals that it is OK to talk, whether this is over coffee with a colleague, via a meeting with a manager or mentor, or through a more open firm-wide communications forum.

Storytelling is a powerful approach to normalising mental health. Personal stories resonate with other people and make us all feel more confident in sharing.

At BDO, I have witnessed examples where people have been brave enough to talk about their experiences openly and I have seen how it inspires others to do the same. It can be comforting knowing you are not alone.

Finally, there is a whole wealth of external resources available that employers can point their people to, and use themselves in guiding people to the right place for help, knowledge and further support.

Teresa Payne is a partner and head of people at accountancy and business advisory firm BDO