Next month, employees across the capital will be wearing a green ribbon to send a clear message: mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of in the workplace.
The Green Ribbon Campaign, which has been created by The Lord Mayor’s Appeal charity, is encouraging employees to wear a green ribbon to create a culture of openness in the workplace when it comes to mental health.
Each ribbon is branded with the words “Together we can #endthestigma” - and the message couldn’t have come sooner.
According to the mental health charity Mind, one in six employees in the UK is living with a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or stress, but many are suffering in silence.
A recent survey, quoted by Mind, found that one in five people felt they couldn’t tell their boss if they were overly stressed at work and less than half of people diagnosed with a mental health issue had told their manager.
Business leaders can order a batch of green ribbons to be handed out in their workplace and employees are encouraged to wear their’s throughout Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 (8 - 14 May), to show solidarity for anyone living with a mental illness.
Dr Andrew Parmley, Lord Mayor of the City of London, hopes creating a sea of green will not only aid a culture shift in the City, but also help to reduce stigma around mental health in workplaces across the UK.
“I am proud to be wearing my green ribbon in support of ‘This is Me - in the City’. One in four UK adults suffer, at some time in their lives, from mental health difficulties. A half of absences in non-manual work can be put down to stress,” he told The Huffington Post UK.
“Mental health difficulties can affect any of us at any time, employers and employees, in each and every sector. Let us therefore stand together and show our support for ending mental health stigma in the workplace.”
Around 80 organisations have already signed up to take part in the initiative, including Bank of England, Baker McKenzie, Deutsche Bank, Aberdeen Asset Management and UBS.
Every organisation that signs up will also receive a resource pack on how to initiate conversations about mental health at work and how to roll out the ribbons.
Javed Thomas, director of development at The Lord Mayor’s Appeal, said big businesses are open to improving the mental wellbeing of their employees.
“Since launching orders for the green ribbon in March 2017 we have approached around 200 organisations, of which already 80 have signed up to participate. It has been absolutely inspiring having had such a wonderful take up,” he told HuffPost UK.
“These 80 organisations have more than 300,000 staff in the UK alone - and with media support, the message will get out to a wider audience and really start to make an impact.
“We think this will be a catalyst for individuals and organisations to really ramp up addressing the issue: in removing the stigma, providing the support and most importantly, keeping people healthy and safe - being allowed to be their true self and not suffer in silence or in shame as thousands do.”
Craig Butler, an activation planner and executive who’s been living with depression for the past six years, has welcomed the initiative, having found it difficult to talk about his mental health at work in the past.
“Even though I shared my experiences to colleagues as a whole to generate awareness, speaking about it on a personal level was really difficult,” he told HuffPost UK.
“It makes work more difficult because you can’t explain exactly why you’re having a bad day or why you’re not responding well to people.”
He said it’s important that initiatives like the Green Ribbon Campaign are helping to break down the stigma around mental health at work “because it empowers employees”.
“It’s beneficial to employer and employee if the employee can be open and honest about mental health,” he said.
“If an employee knows their employer can support, it will also make them a more motivated employee in the long run, as well as making them genuinely happier people.
“I think employers need to do much more to make this process easier though, because there’s still a mindset of keeping personal issues out of the workplace that creates a barrier with being open.”
As well as helping current employees like Butler, Thomas is hopeful the ribbons will be a step towards improving the landscape for the next generation of workers, like his daughter.
“Despite struggling all her life, my 13-year-old daughter was recently diagnosed with mental health challenges. She really struggles daily, and along with the taboo and people’s misunderstanding and the myths, she has it tough,” he said.
“But she has been inspired by those that have shared their stories through This is Me (which inspired her to share her story in school during Time to Change day) and by the 80 organisations and their employees that will wear a ribbon.
“This is something she is really excited about as it will ‘help the younger generation who will enter the workplace in the future to know that this amazing initiative will make a change for the better for mental health in the workplace!’ She believes that the Green Ribbon will indeed help to ‘change the world’ – it fills my heavy heart with moments of joy. I have never been prouder.”
Businesses can order the new green ribbons in batches of 50 at a cost of 35p per ribbon (including postage). If you want your workplace to get involved, badger your boss to order a box from The Lord Mayor’s Appeal now.
The organisers are hoping to deliver all ribbons by 24th April 2017 in time for Mental Health Awareness Week, so order as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
Useful websites and helplines:
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393 Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.) Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org