• The mental health challenge: Liberty plays its part in tackling the mental health crisis

The mental health challenge has grown during the pandemic, with a stark rise in people experiencing mental health illnesses and sadly, a rise in suicide rates. As part of World Mental Health Day (Sunday, October 10th), Liberty’s Learning and Development Manager, Nick Collis, shares more around how the property services business is working to support staff with their mental health and play its part in tackling the mental health crisis.

According to WHO (World Health Organisation), almost 3,000 people on average die by suicide daily. For every tragic case of suicide, 20 or more may attempt suicide.

It is a frightening and sobering statistic. The past 18 months have been unsettling, we have had to adapt to a new way of living, working and interacting with people – all at once.

Consequently, people have experienced intensified feelings of anxiety and depression. Many have faced challenges life has thrown at them, which involve health complications, financial troubles and loneliness and isolation. Some people have felt there is no way out. It has impacted almost everyone, and those of us working in the property services industry are no exception.

Overcoming the stigma

Sadly, like many companies, Liberty has been affected by suicide and has experienced loss. Each case has a huge impact on families and communities across the UK, which is why we want to address and overcome the stigma which is linked to mental health to help our people feel supported. We want to show our colleagues that opening up is not a weakness. On the contrary – talking about mental health is a courageous step.

As a business, we have developed an extensive mental health at work plan. It sets out ways to reduce stress and help employees find healthier ways of living and working. Managing our work-life balance is the first key, and we encourage everyone to take time out, eat well and exercise regularly.

Wellbeing plans

We have also rolled out wellbeing access plans at Liberty to provide managers with the tools to help people struggling with mental health and to work together with anyone struggling to look at the support we can provide as a business, as well as steps they can take to support their wellbeing.

As part of these plans there is a wide range of help and advice for all aspects of mental health, including help for those of us with children who may be experiencing similar challenges. With personal experience in supporting my ten-year-old son in dealing with anxiety, I personally have found these tools invaluable in increasingly my understanding and helping me to work through these challenges with him.

Other measures that we have put in place include carefully selecting our life insurance provider and our healthcare plan for the wide range of support services they provide. This gives colleagues access to a health app where they can log their steps and win prizes - it encourages frequent interaction as well as exercise.

As a business, we’re also part of the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). It includes assessment and referral services, so our colleagues can benefit from counselling and other help they may need. I have benefited from it personally and received support for legal and financial matters. We’ve also had lots of feedback from staff too, they said they feel supported and backed by us a business – which is why we became part of the EAP.

Embedding values

Embedding values which address mental health has become part of the backbone of our business. We are training 60 colleagues to become mental health first aiders. It will begin to gradually remove any stigma around mental health and will hopefully mean our employees feel more comfortable with reporting mental health issues so they can seek support.

While workplaces – including us – still have a long way to go, I am proud to be part of a business which is leading the change. When reviewing the data and usage of the initiatives and programmes we have implemented – we can see our employees are finding them useful. It’s time we stop looking at mental health as a taboo and tackle it with both hands. Together, we can raise awareness, save lives and create a brighter future for our employees and our communities.

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