To mark World Mental Health Day, Laura Hopper and Dan Tucker spotlight the enduring importance of mental wellbeing and explain how BAE Systems is prioritising the mental health of employees worldwide
This year, World Mental Health Day could, on some level, be seen as something of a misnomer. Now that might seem a surprising way for two mental health advocates to kick off a blog on the subject but think about it for a moment.
Awareness of mental health is already surely at record highs. As an issue it is frequently cited by policymakers and business leaders. It has been the subject of cutting edge research and greater funding. And it frequently materialises in media reports, including print, broadcast and online. As a result, it seems safe to say that the days where the terms “mental” or “bonkers” were deployed as an attack line are long gone.
But there is always more to do – particularly as we emerge, blinking, into the post-pandemic sunlight.
Moving centre stage
The UK health secretary, Sajid Javid, told a recent audience that “there has never been a more important time to talk about mental health”. We agree.
That’s because covid-19 has wrought abundant changes to our daily lives, bringing challenges large and small into our routines both at work and at home. Livelihoods have been threatened, businesses shuttered, remote learning instituted and human contact, until relatively recently, greatly limited. And that’s without the grief and heartache which has been writ large for millions of people mourning friends and family around the world.
All this, inevitably, has had a dire impact on many people’s mental health. The numbers tell their own grim story. In Britain, around one in five adults experienced some form of depression in the first three months of this year, more than double that observed before the pandemic. New research commissioned by the UK’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities has also revealed that 49 per cent of adults in England said that the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental wellbeing.
And of course, such challenges are by no means limited to British borders. A survey by the World Health Organization showed that the pandemic disrupted mental health services in 93 per cent of countries worldwide. As a result, it was good to see that during the World Health Assembly in May 2021, governments from around the world recognised the need to scale up quality mental health services at all levels.
Nonetheless, it is abundantly clear that more people than ever before are in need of mental health support. Encouragingly, more people are willing to speak out about their vulnerability. For example, role models such as the cricketer Ben Stokes and actor Ryan Reynolds have been open about the difficulties they have faced, and continue to face, during their respective careers.
But that doesn’t mean we should sit back and think we’ve done all we can. On the contrary, it is now time to redouble our efforts – and at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence we’re doing just that.
Improving workplace wellbeing
We believe that mental health is essential to our overall wellbeing and, while less visible, it is just as important as our physical health.
At BAE Systems, our commitment is demonstrated by our pledge to the Mental Health Commitment which provides a framework for employers to create an environment where employees can thrive. The Commitment asks employers to, among other things, prioritise mental health in the workplace and proactively ensure work design and organisational culture drive positive mental health outcomes.
In addition, our mental health Employee Resource Group, Great Minds, brings together colleagues and sponsors from across the business with the aim of raising awareness of mental health, creating a culture of openness and conversation and working with the organisation to develop a supportive culture with a focus on mental wellbeing for all colleagues.
And during the pandemic we have put in place a number of programmes, including access to a 24-hour employee assistance programme run by professional councillors that offers on-the-spot support as well as longer term counselling.
These efforts will, we believe, help create a working environment where mental health is simply a non-issue. Ours will be a working environment in which employees directly or indirectly affected by mental health can talk openly whilst feeling supported. If we help just one person in the company, then we have succeeded.
After all, it’s ok not to be ok.
Learn more about how we support our employees’ mental health
Learn more about
The Employee Resource Group for all things mental health at BAE Systems Applied IntelligenceFind out more
About the authors
Laura Hopper is a business consultant at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence
Dan Tucker is a business analyst at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence