When I embarked on a journey to bring mental health literacy and awareness to Imperial College, I felt starting small was the best way forward. I am a fan of pilot and review, with evidence and tangible outcomes to be able to roll out a project on a larger scale. I have been delighted that, in three years talking about mental health in the workplace has gone from a discussions taking place few and far between to being embedded in the College’s strategy 2015-2020. We have also been chosen as one of 60 work places to be Time to Change pledge alumni and show case best practice.
I’d like to share how this journey has enabled me to go from small steps to organisational culture change, and why Time to Change’s #smallthings campaign is so vital.
I trained as a Mental First Aider in December 2011, through a wonderful charity called Restore in Oxford. From completing the course, I knew I wanted to become a trainer and share the benefits I had experienced with others. On completion, I ran two pilot courses in-house for eight people per cohort. The training was received extremely positively and two weeks later, I had received enough interest that the courses were full for the rest of year. The demand has grown and grown ever since then. So much so, that we now have three in-house trainers.
However, the legacy of starting this safe space for discussion has been far greater than this. It has enabled staff to create a culture where talking and understanding mental wellbeing and supporting mental-ill health is becoming everyday practice. Building on this I was able to create an organisation wide action plan to sign the Time to Change Pledge. This was done in May 2014, just a year later. An achievement I couldn’t have imagined only a year prior.
Time to Change continued to support us by carrying out a HealthCheck. This is an audit of how policies related to wellbeing match the practices that take place. I was the strategic lead and we had the highest number of staff wanting to take part in the one-to-one interviews. A real testament to the shift that was taking place. The HealthCheck exercise enabled the senior management team to understand the ongoing challenges, as well as being aware how far we had come in short time. This was a catalyst for mental health and wellbeing featuring in the College’s five year strategy. I have also convened a high-level steering group, Chaired by the Provost to ensure that we continue on the path to improve the experience for all and live best practice.
I am hosting a breakfast briefing on Monday 14 December, with Time to Change, featuring speakers from Barclays and BAE systems to highlight how to instigate long-term change and sustain it. If you are interested in attending, please do get in contact and I will send you an invite.
In the meantime, please join in the #smallthings campaign and find out how small changes really do make a big impact.