Baillie Gifford’s Mental Health Group talk about their aims and ambitions in relation to destigmatising mental health issues.
Tell us about the Mental Health Group
The Group was set up in 2017 in recognition that mental health issues are more common than most people realise. There is still a real stigma around mental health, which doesn’t necessarily apply to physical wellbeing and we need to break that down. The reality is mental health issues can take many forms and wellbeing needs to be thought about across the whole spectrum.
What are the main objectives of the group?
The first is around destigmatising these issues; making mental health something we can all talk about openly. We want to get to a point where people can ask for help without worrying about how it will be perceived. As part of raising awareness, we also want to educate people on how mental health issues can manifest themselves. This will enable us to better spot the signs and look out for each other.
It’s also key that we promote what we already offer by way of support in this area. We have a whole range of services aimed at fostering wellbeing at Baillie Gifford, including mindfulness sessions and yoga classes, as well as clubs that foster a sense of community, such as the choir and touch rugby. We also offer all staff access to the Employee Assistance Programme through First Psychology.
We want to get to a point where people can ask for help without worrying about how it will be perceived.
What initiatives are the group considering around the topic of mental health?
Firstly, we have our Mental Health Supporters, a group of roughly 40 members of staff who are on hand to support colleagues. These individuals have been trained by mental health experts and are there to listen – confidentially – to anyone at the firm who is in need of someone to talk to.
Additionally, we have an Employee Assistance Programme through First Psychology. Staff can access this service at any time, confidentially.
We’ve also invited a number of speakers into the office, including Terry Waite and Ben Smith, who have talked to staff about their experiences of mental health. Over and above that, we’ve hosted a Tea and Talk session and we did a series of activities around Mental Health Awareness Week in 2018, with another programme of events planned for 2019.
The Mental Health Group has also established a sub-group dedicated to wellbeing, which has close ties with the work we are doing around mental health. This group does a lot to make staff aware of initiatives in this area, which include mindfulness, yoga, Tai Chi and much more.
What are the benefits to the firm of having this group?
The statistics around mental health issues illustrate just how common they are. One in four people will be affected by a mental health problem in any given year so it is very much a material consideration for us. But we also think that it’s more fundamental than that. If we want to have healthy, happy, motivated people who will be with us for a long time and take great pride in working here then we have a responsibility to ensure we are taking mental health very seriously.
How would you like to see the group develop?
We are encouraged by what we’ve achieved over the past two years and we will continue to build on that. For us, the most important objective is to relieve the stigma around talking about mental health issues. We are starting to see staff talk more openly about their mental health, so we need to be mindful of this and keep the conversation going. We want our staff to be able to be themselves at work. Talking openly about mental health is one way we can achieve this.