M&S launches mental health training to help colleagues support young people

London,UK-August 2021: Marks and Spencer clothing store shop front on Fenchurch Street in central London

Today, during Children’s Mental Health Week (5-11th February 2024), British multinational retailer M&S is launching new training to help its 65,000 colleagues learn more about how to support the young people in their lives.

The online voluntary training has been created as part of the retailer’s partnership with leading mental health charity for young people, YoungMinds. Through the training, colleagues will develop skills and understanding to support them in having conversations with young people around how they are feeling and help prevent them from reaching the point of crisis.

The bigger picture

M&S has been at the forefront of the sustainability agenda since it launched it’s industry-leading Plan A programme back in 2007. This was refreshed in 2021 as part of its drive to deliver long-term, sustainable, profitable growth for investors, colleagues and wider communities.

Reflecting the increasing integration of health and wellbeing into Environmental, Social & Corporate Governance (ESG) strategies, it’ great to see M&S’s approach to supporting employee health and wellbeing growing from strength to strength.

The retailer is also launching a YoungMinds colleague network to support the training, build the partnership and ensure colleagues can access peer-to-peer advice.  The new network sits alongside a range of health and wellbeing support already available to M&S colleagues and their families, including access to online GP’s, counselling and financial advice.

M&S x YoungMinds Ambassador, TV presenter and mum of three Rochelle Humes has also shared her tips and advice on how to start a conversation.

The power of giving

At www.makeadifference.media, we’ve written before about how giving can boost the wellbeing of the giver as well as the recipient.

Echoing this, also going live today is a new donation drive in M&S stores for Children’s Mental Health Week (5th to 19th February) where customers can choose to round up their shopping basket total to donate to YoungMinds.

Victoria McKenzie-Gould, Corporate Affairs Director at M&S, said: “When we asked colleagues and customers what issues were front of their mind, their family’s mental health was top of the list. That’s why we launched our biggest ever charity partnership with YoungMinds in September, which brings practical help and optimism to support young people with their mental health. Our colleagues and customers have been phenomenal; helping us smash our initial fundraising target with a donation of £1.4m to date.

“To coincide with Children’s Mental Health week, we are encouraging everyone to check in with the young people in their lives and launching a fresh fundraising drive.

Laura Bunt, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said: “We know how important it is for young people to be able to talk about their mental health, so we’re pleased to be launching this training with M&S. More young people than ever are struggling with their mental health. Opening up can be hard, but having an adult they can trust and talk to can make a big difference. This training will equip adults with tools to help them start a conversation with a young person in their life so they can show them they’re not alone with their mental health.

Shocking statistics

Only last week, The Guardian reported that, according to a survey undertaken for the youth mental health charity Stem4, almost three in 10 secondary pupils are avoiding going to school because doing so would make them anxious.

Across the UK, 28% of 12 to 18-year-olds have not attended school over the last year for that reason, with experts warning that many stayed away because they would have felt unable to cope.

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The mental health of young people is a huge concern for many across the country and consistently tops the list of things M&S customers and colleagues say they care strongly about.

M&S x YoungMinds launched their charity partnership in October 2023 to raise awareness of the help available to young people struggling with their mental health and the adults in their lives, as well as vital funds for research and resources. The partnership launched with research looking to understand young people’s mental health.

Retailers leading the way

Whilst the past years have seen multiple sectors recognising the vital role that they can play in supporting employee health and wellbeing, retail does appear to be setting the benchmark with trailblazing initiatives: As early as 2020, seven major UK retailers teamed up with mental health charity Samaritans to create an online wellbeing guide for workers in the sector; both in 2021 and 2023, Aldi UK were winners of our Make A Difference Awards; through its partnership with Time to Talk Day, Co-op are demonstrating they’re commitment to supporting wider communities as well as their workforce, and John Lewis Partnership have started offering customers access to preventative healthcare.

We look forward to seeing what’s next.

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