MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

Using Storytelling to Tackle Stigma

Are you struggling to break through the stigma that still surrounds talking about mental health (and mental ill-health) in your workplace? If you are, you’re not alone. We’ve made great strides but there is still a long way to go.

Storytelling is recognised as one of the most effective ways to break down this stigma. In this article, Francesca Baker from the Lord Mayor’s Appeal outlines how their This is Me approach to storytelling can help to engage employees – where ever employers are on their journey to implementing initiatives that support mental health and wellbeing.

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This is Me storytelling is a unique tool and framework to support businesses and employees to speak about mental health in the workplace. At its heart, it is about ending the stigma around speaking around mental ill health.

Our storytelling approach embraces openness, honesty, and transparency.

Mental health is something that affects us all. This is Me reduces stigma, enables employees to talk without fear, and helps to dispel the myths around mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

This is Me for mental health

This is Me is committed to changing attitudes around mental health and strives to create healthier and more inclusive workplaces by reducing stigma, dispelling myths, and improving employee wellbeing for good.

It is part of a suite of tools designed to support employees and employers to develop healthy workplaces and speak openly about mental health. This includes:

  • This is Me Storytelling, where organisations encourage their employees to open the
    conversation around mental health by sharing their personal experiences;
  • The Green Ribbon Campaign which sees employees wear green ribbons, physically and
    virtually, to visibly show their support for ending the stigma;
  • Wellbeing in the Workplace, an online training in which businesses upskill their employees
    in having conversations about mental health.

Mental health in the workplace

Despite the prevalence of mental ill-health it is still a taboo subject, especially in the workplace. However, we are at a tipping point where there is an appetite for change and the time is right for businesses to collaborate and raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing and reduce stigma in the workplace.

95% of workers in the UK will have been touched by mental health challenges, with 3 in 4 experiencing these challenges directly (Accenture Report, It’s not 1 in 4 of us, It’s all of us, 2019).

According to the same Accenture report, only 47% of employees said their employee offered a programme of support around mental health. Meanwhile, 74% of workers aged 18-30 said that if senior leaders spoke openly about their own mental health, then more people in the organisation would feel able to share their own mental health challenges.

The Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic study, led by the Mental Health Foundation, has shown that people’s mental health is being affected by social distancing measures and their economic consequences.

17.9 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2019/20 (Labour Force Survey, 2020).

COVID-19, lockdown and remote working have all taken their toll, and stress levels have risen throughout the pandemic. Mental health at work has always been important, but now it is really time to show employees that they are valued and can be themselves, despite any challenges or difficulties.

Storytelling for success

Our This is Me Storytelling campaign encourages businesses and employees to make a short video talking about their own mental health, and about themselves as a person, with the end goal of raising the awareness of the importance of mental health at work.

Businesses who successfully integrate This is Me storytelling into their workplace see a transformation in culture and health. Those who share their stories feel empowered, able to speak about their lived experiences without fear of stigma or shame and come forward for support. Senior leaders recognise the importance of having mental health at work plans, and monitoring mental health and wellbeing. Managers are equipped to have conversations about mental health.

The impact of storytelling

International law firm CMS were an early adopter of This is Me. A representative of the company said: “CMS first participated in the This is Me campaign in 2018 and we haven’t looked back since. Our This is Me film marked a real shift in our ability to talk openly and honestly about mental health at CMS, with many colleagues feeding back that they are proud to work for a firm which doesn’t shy away from the reality of mental health”.

“The film helped to open up conversations at CMS and we are proud that a further 15 colleagues have been able to share their own This is Me stories, which we have released internally at regular intervals since we first began our This is Me journey.”

306 organisations have supported their employees to share their lived experience of mental ill health through This is Me Storytelling. We hope to build on this and create a culture where everyone feels able to speak about who they are and where they have come from, if they feel comfortable.

We know that when employees feel comfortable speaking about mental health, it is good for people, good for society and good for business.

You are you. This is me. Tell your story.

You might be interested in these examples of This is Me videos:

This is Me: faith and culture

Coutts – This is Me in the City

Credit Suisse – This is Me