Every day this week we're sharing the stories of workplaces that are putting mental health at the top of their agenda.

Today we speak to two employees from IT services giant Capgemini.

John Walmsley is the company's commercial & risk director. He’s had issues around depression, anxiety and panic attacks on and off throughout his adult life.

“In work, good organisational design – such as size, location, role autonomy, fulfilment, employment security, life balance – can have a bearing on mental wellbeing, certainly in areas of stress creation and reduction," he says.

"When it comes to managing mental wellbeing, I learned the mnemonic HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired), as things to check in on as a ‘red flag’.

"Unhelpful thought patterns and ‘looped’ thoughts can hinder good mental health and accessing a ‘meta’ state where you can check in on your own thinking is a useful tool to develop.

"To help those around you, get to know your team really well. That will help spot changes that might indicate an underlying issue, like missed deadlines from someone reliable, irritability, loss of humour, lateness and an unkempt appearance.

"Active listening is the best possible skill to develop.

"Give the person time to talk. Talk in private. Keep confidences (unless there’s a risk of harm).

"Don’t say “are you having mental health issues?” – say “You don’t seem your usual self today, is there anything you want to talk about?”. Then allow them time – maybe days or even weeks – but they may come back at some point and start the conversation.

"Two or three generations ago no one ever mentioned the ‘C’ word (it’s cancer, if you’re wondering), yet many were adversely impacted by it. The same is true about mental health – people will talk if we provide a safe and welcoming environment to do so.

"Have I told everyone everything about my mental health? No, of course not. But neither have I talked about my physical health. Some things will always remain private to me or those who’ve directly helped me or been affected by my health.”

Laura Gardner Capgemini

Laura Gardner had a period of several months where she struggled

Laura Gardner is diversity & inclusion lead for Capgemini.

She had a period of two to three months several years ago where she was “emotionally labile” and struggled with teary outbursts for little or no reason.

“I visited a local counsellor through Capgemini’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), worked some things through and gained more self-awareness and an understanding that has really helped me since," she says.

"Now I am leading on our work around the topic of mental health – from setting up our Disability, Carers & Allies employee network group, to our recent campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Week and Carers’ Week.

"Sharing personal stories from our team members has really resonated with our people and prompted conversations within teams, and our network has already had a brilliant impact in connecting people as a community.

"One of the lessons I learnt early as an HR Manager was that while you can never completely and perfectly understand what someone is going through, you can always ask them and then actively listen.

"You’re not being asked to medically diagnose someone, just to listen and signpost to help – from asking whether they have thought about going to their GP, calling the EAP or one of the many other support lines available like Samaritans and Mind.”

Read about other companies creating a supportive workplace:

Olark

AECOM

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