Julie Weston Executive Director (maternity leave) of Cardboard Citizens provides a personal view on ‘Mental Health at Work’, and what she hopes to achieve from the September 13th event. Cardboard Citizens is a theatre company and registered charity that has been been making life-changing theatre with and for homeless people for 25 years.

What does mental health at work mean to you as a Charity Director?

It means senior managers showing it’s ok to talk about mental health, whether this is linked to external issues that affect us, or stress arising from work itself.

It’s also about creating healthy cultures - work places where people feel both stretched and supported, so that they can continue to respond creatively to big challenges. A ‘mentally healthy culture’ requires healthy team work, good feedback and quality management.

Name one good thing that Cardboard Citizens currently does to look after the mental health of Members and employees?

We provide support to Members on issues such as benefits, and ‘where can I sleep tonight?’

On occasion Members describe feeling suicidal. We recognise that we are not mental health specialists and  we have built relationships with Samaritans and Maytree so that we can spot the signs and sign post people when necessary. 
Reductions in statutory sector provision and other social changes means that Members can have complex mental health needs. We have introduced group supervision with an accredited therapist for programme staff. This confidential setting enables them to reflect on challenging issues and feel more equipped and resilient.

If you could change one thing overnight to further optimise mental health in the not-for-profit sector what would that be?

There is such an urgency to achieve social change in the sector that we sometimes focus on ‘getting things done’ at the cost of mental well-being. We have a very long hours culture, intense workloads and perhaps sometimes a disproportionate investment of our personal identities in identity work.

We need to pause more frequently to remember that well-being is holistic: it requires good mental health as well as physical health.  Mental health at work is not a ‘dirty word’ (or phrase!). Senior leadership needs to model talking about mental health and encouraging people to identify what helps them stay resilient.

What does mental health at work mean to you personally?  

I am a working carer for my elderly parents who are unwell.  We all need to recognise that ‘life can become larger than work’. This is such a time for me.

It’s important to let colleagues know about external challenges; I do a better job when I am seen as a whole person and don’t have to hide an important part of my life.

What’s one thing that you do to look after your own mental health?

I tap dance and socalise with close friends.

What are you looking forward to about the conference on September 13th?

Understanding the issues concerning mental health that all sectors face. Sharing practical solutions.

(Julie’s personal perspective provided here represent her views alone are not necessarily formally shared by Cardboard Citizens)

If you are a CEO, senior leader, HR Director or senior manager with an interest in mental health at work, attend the event on September 13th (2 pm to 6 pm)  that is being co-hosted by Dynamic Voice, a learning and development consultancy, and Maytree Suicide Respite Centre. This highly interactive event will contribute to the vital organisational debate on mental health at work, challenge the mental health taboo, and identify practical actions that organisations of any size can take to enhance mental health at work.

For more information see our event information here: https://dynamicvoice.co.uk/blog/2016/08/12/event-wellbeing-in-the-workplace

To book your place go here: http://bit.ly/wellbeingatwork2016