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#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek: Pushing mental wellbeing up the corporate agenda

Julie Simpson, Compliance and HR Manager, YFM

This article is featured as part of our week-long series looking at awareness and practical advice to support the Mental Health of those working across the financial services sector.

Julie Simpson, Compliance and HR Manager at YFM Equity Partners (YFM), explains how the firm has sharpened its focus on improving mental health.

In recent years, there’s been a growing – and welcome – change in attitudes towards mental health. With lots of celebrities from Stephen Fry to Prince Harry helping to raise awareness, many financial services businesses have recognised the issue within their own teams and set about providing support. Looking after people makes sense not only ethically, but also economically with fit and happy colleagues more likely to stay with the business and provide a better service to clients.

At YFM, our mental health journey started to take shape around four years ago when one of our directors became closely involved with Leeds Mind, a charity that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing, providing help and support to those who need it. I was encouraged to lead the firm’s mental wellbeing initiatives and to become a mental health first aider. YFM also joined the Leeds Mindful Employer Network which brings together local employers to champion positive mental health at work.

As well as participating in courses hosted by Leeds Mind, I’ve been able to access the charity’s wealth of resources. Each month, they send a newsletter with hints and advice, which I review and pick out  the parts which I think are most relevant to us. After customising these, I circulate them to colleagues in the hope that they may just strike a chord with someone and provide help at the right time. For example, as April was stress awareness month, I shared a YouTube video with relaxation tips amongst the team to assist with stress management.  YFM also invests in an annual licence from Leeds Mind which gives us access to all of their guidance materials on anxiety, stress, depression etc which we feature on the wellbeing section of our intranet.

The pandemic brought the need for good mental health into stark relief – we were very aware during the lockdowns of the risk of people feeling lonely and isolated or stressed. We encouraged the team to support one another by sharing experiences of whatever was helping them get through, from going running, playing golf, bird watching, crafting and photography to practicing mediation and yoga. Other remote activities we all looked forward to were the Wednesday quiz, book and podcast recommendations and our own version of ‘Through the Keyhole’. We also held virtual coffee mornings each day for anyone wishing to drop in and have a chat. Even now with the introduction of hybrid working, the virtual coffee mornings continue, albeit only once a week, and we continually stress that people should not be tempted to work outside their normal office hours with the need to maintain a good work/life balance being of paramount importance.

We have introduced tools to help the team recognise what makes them tick and keeps them healthy. For example, we launched a Wellness Action Plan (WAP) in December which encourages self-reflection and self-awareness. In October, Leeds Mind also tailored a course for YFM line managers which explained how to use the WAP should anyone in their team wish to share their plan and, if necessary, how to approach sometimes difficult conversations around mental health with colleagues.

We have had a couple of colleagues who have struggled with mental health issues and YFM has been able to provide counselling through the introduction of private healthcare cover and even offered a sabbatical when necessary.

Looking ahead, we will soon be appointing a second mental health first aider and I will continue to refresh my own training with Leeds Mind. Our current initiatives will continue and one of the topical issues on our mental health agenda this year is the impact of menopause on working women with more awareness and support needed around issues from poor concentration and tiredness to lowered confidence.

There’s no doubt that raising awareness of mental wellbeing and providing additional support over the last few years has been of huge benefit to our 43-strong team and we’re happy to once again be supporting Mental Health Awareness Week. We will be attending the Leeds Mindful Employer Network event to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week and taking away as many hints and tips as possible to help our staff. As a firm, we are committed to continuing to focus on improving mental health and wellbeing, and one of our targets for 2022 is to finish pulling together our various initiatives into a comprehensive wellbeing policy.

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