By Elizabeth Hampson, Director, Monitor Deloitte
Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), organised by the Mental Health Foundation which, since 2000, has organised its annual campaign around a specific topic. These campaigns have helped raise public awareness of issues such as loneliness, anger, fear and friendship. I have been a passionate advocate for raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues for a number of years and wanted to use this opportunity to highlight some of the key initiatives from last week and also explain a little about what Deloitte is doing.
Over the past five years the campaign themes have been quite varied. For example, in 2014 the theme was ‘Anxiety’, in 2015 it was ‘Mindfulness’, in 2016, ‘Relationships’ and in 2017, ‘Surviving or Thriving?’ The aim in 2017 was to draw attention to the ways in which the demands of everyday life can undermine our capacity to stay mentally well. Last year it was ‘Stress’, and included new research that showed that some 16 million people in the UK experience a stress related mental health problem each year.1
This year’s MHAW theme is ‘Body Image’, and as in previous years the Mental Health Foundation supported its campaign by publishing the results of a survey of 4,505 UK adults (18 and over) and 1,118 teenagers (aged 13-19) on their feelings about their body image over the past year. The results show that:
- one in eight adults (13 per cent) felt so distressed that they have experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings
- one in five (20 per cent) felt ashamed
- just over one third (34 per cent) felt down or low
- 19 per cent felt disgusted
- among teenagers, 37 per cent felt upset, and 31 per cent felt ashamed in relation to their body image.2
Extrapolating the results of this survey to the UK population could mean that millions of British adults may have experienced suicidal thoughts or debilitating emotions because of concerns about their body image. The report’s key recommendations include the need for:
- effective regulation of how body image is portrayed
- commitment from social media companies to play a key role in promoting body kindness
- a public health approach to body image by training frontline health and education staff.
- individuals to be more aware of how to take care of themselves and others in relation to body image.
This year’s MHAW week attracted more interest than ever before, and it appears the dialogue around mental health in the UK is substantially changing. For example, last week we saw a string of programmes by the BBC to raise mental health awareness:
- On Wednesday, Nadiya Hussain (winner of Great British Bake Off) talked bravely about her struggle with anxiety and panic attacks on BBC.3
- David Harewood, through the film Psychosis And Me, described his personal experiences with mental health – for me, the most striking moment of this documentary was when David said he’d heard that people in psychiatric wards get fewer ‘get well’ cards than on any other ward.
- On Sunday, Prince William discussed men’s mental health with a range of sports personalities, and on Tuesday Alastair Campbell talked about his battle with depression.4
One mental health initiative launched to coincide with MHAW was Mental Health Innovation’s launch of a text-based crisis service called Shout, which is backed by £3 million from The Royal Foundation, the charity formed by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.5 I was particularly excited to see the launch of Shout, as a few months ago I was part of a team that supported Mental Health Innovations to determine the financial sustainability and longer-term needs of this crucial service.
In 2017, 37 per cent of children and young people referred to mental health services were denied help.6 Furthermore, between 2012-2017, there was a 50 per cent increase in the number of university students seeking help for mental health issues, straining the capacity of the limited services available to deal with the demand.7
Shout is powered by a team of volunteers who are trained to create a safe space for people experiencing mental health challenges. Shout operates 24/7 and connects people in need to trained volunteers who take people from a moment of crisis to a calm state and form a plan for the next steps. An urgent need is to extend the number of trained volunteers. There are currently 1,000 volunteers who are clinically supervised and trained to respond to texts messages received by the service. The service hopes to have 4,000 volunteers by the end of the year.8
Deloitte’s part in changing the dialogue around mental health
As a large employer Deloitte is also trying to do its part in changing the dialogue, both inside Deloitte and in the wider business community. A number of my colleagues and I speak regularly at various events about what Deloitte does to support employee wellbeing. We have discussions with clients and have published reports on workplace mental health and wellbeing.9,10 Recently, Kay Forsythe and I presented at the iCAAD London conference on Deloitte’s research and how our approach to employee wellbeing is changing.11 iCAAD’s London conference is Europe’s leading conference on behavioural, emotional and mental health issues, and it was very humbling to present in front of clinicians who are at the frontline of supporting people in crisis and with serious mental health conditions.
Last week Deloitte announced our new One Million Futures partnerships, which will start on 1 June and which include a number of mental health charities. In London we'll be working with Mind (alongside Scope and The Prince’s Trust); our Birmingham office will be partnering with Place2Be; and in Scotland, we will be partnering with Aberdeen Foyer and Move On in Glasgow. These charities focus on helping people with a range of issues, including mental health. Having worked with Mind many times during our previous partnership, which ran from 2013 to 2016, I am delighted that we are once again going to be their charity partner and look forward to the opportunity to continue to work together on this important topic.
So reflecting on this year’s MHAW let’s all play our own part to ensure this momentum continues year on year and acknowledge that we all have fluctuating mental health as well as fluctuating health.