As part of Cardiff and Vale UHB’s ongoing commitment to end mental health discrimination in the workplace with Time to Change Wales, Sue Thomas, Head of Learning, Education & Development, shares her own experience and discusses how her department can support staff.
Sue said: “I have much personal experience with mental health problems. Although I have never had mental health problems, close members of my family have lived with depression for years and I have supported them.
“For this reason, I am very aware of the need for robust mechanisms to be in place to support those with mental illnesses, as well as the need for us to talk about it and treat it in a similar way to physical illnesses.
“However, supporting those you love in your personal life and your colleagues can be a totally different experience. Often, staff desperately want to help and support their colleagues who have mental health problems but do not know how to approach the subject.
“This is where, as an employer, Cardiff and Vale UHB has a function to raise awareness of the issue of mental health as well as providing education to staff on what they can do to support their colleagues.
“The UHB’s Learning, Education & Development (LED) department plays a pivotal role in this endeavour, especially in supporting line managers to have open, honest and frank conversations with their staff about their mental health.
“As leaders, we need to have an acute awareness of our own behaviours and management styles and how they can have an effect on vulnerable staff. Unfortunately, behaviour can often become entrenched and can be difficult to change.
“However, according to Time to Change Wales, 9 out of 10 people with mental health problems report that they experience stigma or discrimination so it is clear that we all need to do more to address this. Change needs to be embedded in the organisation and can be enabled through departments such as LED.
“I want the department to be able to educate UHB staff about how to talk about mental health in an open and direct way as well as informing them of what the health board can offer in terms of professional support.
“We have, for example, the Employee Wellbeing Service which is run by dedicated and hugely knowledgeable counsellors. If staff feel as though they need support but don’t feel like they can talk to their immediate colleagues or line management, it can be difficult to know to whom they should turn.
“The Employee Wellbeing Service is here for those members of staff. They’re able to refer themselves without any input from their line manager and everything discussed remains absolutely confidential and will not form any part of your personal, medical or Occupational Health file.
“In LED, it is our responsibility to equip staff with as much knowledge about mental health and the available support as possible: only then will be able to begin to influence change towards mental health problems. I’m looking forward to working with the Time to Change group to end mental health discrimination across Cardiff and Vale UHB.”