30th July 2019

Improving mental health at Deeson

Holly Davis
Head of Delivery

Earlier this month, Lead Developer Mike Davis and I attended a two day training course with MHFA England and in the process became Deeson's first mental health ‘first aiders’. We learned about common mental health issues and gained the confidence required to challenge stigmas and support people in experiencing mental health issues in the workplace.

Holly and Mike sharing what they learned with Deeson staff

Inclusivity through mental health awareness

Over the past few years, we’ve been on a mission at Deeson to make sure we’re as inclusive as possible. In addition to addressing our recruitment process, tackling our unconscious biases and committing to closing the gender pay gap, it also means making sure that people experiencing mental health issues get the support they need.

Approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health issue this year, while the wider economic costs of mental ill health, including lost productivity, are estimated at £105 billion per annum, so it’s in the interests of every employer to make sure they’re addressing the issue. But, beyond the impact to the bottom line, if you want to build a company culture which is inclusive, welcoming and supportive of all, you simply have to acknowledge that everyone has mental health and that better mental health is a good thing for everyone.

The increasing prevalence of distributed teams in the workplace means that more and more of our communications are going online, raising the probability that someone experiencing mental health issues will feel isolated and alone. This is exacerbated in the agency world where the constant need to output work of a high quality can easily lead to burnout without sufficient self-care. As early adopters of technology, it can feel that we’re always chasing ourselves, and this can have negative consequences for mental health if people don’t have the necessary awareness and tools for managing it.

The first step on the journey to better mental health as a company is creating a culture in which mental health issues can be discussed openly and without stigma, and where people in distress get the support they need.

Mental Health First Aid

MHFA England equips people with the skills they need to support their own and others’ mental health and wellbeing through a range of evidence-based training courses. They’re part of an internationally-recognised programme and have provided Mental Health First Aid and awareness training to a huge range of organisations, from Channel 4 to PwC to Royal Mail. 

Through a mix of presentations, group discussions and workshop activities, Mike and Holly gained a basic understanding of what mental health is and how to challenge the stigma that surrounds it; looked at some common mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, and how they manifest themselves; got some tips on stress management and looking after their own mental health; and got an introduction to supporting mental health in the workplace, including how to start supportive conversations.

Better mental health - a journey, not a destination

What we have done by becoming more aware of the triggers behind mental health, and by learning how to spot the signs of problems, is a great first step on our journey to improving mental health at Deeson - and in the combined agency-client teams that we often work in - but it by no means stops here.

We’re aware that, like the technological landscape, the mental health landscape of an individual is constantly changing and evolving, and eventually we’d like to equip everyone who works for us with the tools and knowledge they need to look after their own mental health and provide support for those they work with. And also provide some kind of mechanism or forum for starting conversations about mental health that’s free from stigma or shame of any kind.

As a start, we’re looking at instituting Wellness Wednesdays, where we run a mental health activity or team wellness challenges, and share wellness tips with the whole company. We’re also going to make sure all line managers have adequate training and that inductions for new team members include basic mental health awareness information.

Our journey towards better mental health has only just begun!