Hi Sienna! Introduce yourself!
Hi I'm Sienna Emanuel, the Finance and People associate at HumanForest. I'm a mental health first aider, meaning that I am trained to primarily listen, guide colleagues to access support and get a colleague immediate help in the event of a mental health crisis.
This is something I'm really proud of because it's valuable to me to know that there is always someone around to help.
Why was it important to you that HumanForest has a mental health policy?
Ultimately our goal is to create a workplace where there are no barriers for colleagues to discuss their mental wellbeing or access support. Therefore, it was important for us to have one central resource to encourage destigmatisation, share knowledge about mental ill health, guide colleagues to support and make colleagues aware of the indicators of mental ill health, whether that be for themselves or someone else.
What do you think companies can do to ensure employees feel comfortable when communicating their challenges and asking for support?
I think that is all to do with stigma. I think one of the biggest challenges companies have is destigmatising mental health within the workplace. Many people believe that if someone has mental ill health or is struggling with their mental wellbeing that means they could be incapable of performing their job or it's seen as a weakness. However, I believe that those experiencing mental ill health may be more resilient, empathetic and understanding of the world in different ways, which can be a real asset to a company.
Something we're trialling at the moment is not only encouraging people to speak more openly about mental health, but making others aware of things they may say that might be detrimental or might create negative misconceptions about mental health issues. For instance, someone saying "I am so OCD about some things” might delegitimise someone's actual struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
How is HumanForest being proactive in addressing mental health in the workplace?
There isn't a one size fits all approach to improving mental wellbeing - anyone who's been to therapy or tried to improve their mental wellbeing could tell you that… Often the first thing you try or something that has worked for someone else doesn't always work for you, that's why we're trying to take a holistic approach to improving mental wellbeing in the workplace.
Firstly, we give every staff member a monthly health and wellbeing stipend to spend on a subscription or service of their choice. Secondly, it's really important to us that every colleague knows where they can access support, whether that be from a mental health first aider, through our online mental wellbeing courses or from a professional counsellor via our private health insurance. Lastly, by increasing the awareness of managers and colleagues to the symptoms of mental ill health, we have created a larger support network where colleagues can help one another in times of need.