As of yesterday I am officially a Mental Health ally at Accenture. There are over 200 so far, and our role is to be ambassadors, advocates and allies for mental health. Any cynics out there thinking this sounds like another empty corporate initiative? Think again.
We spent a whole morning training with a representative from Mind, the mental health charity, and learnt all about the symptoms of various mental health conditions from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder. We also looked at stress, although recognising this is not officially a mental health condition per se. The most eye-opening part of the session was how open and honest everyone in the room was: most people there had a personal interest in the topic, whether that be an affected friend or family member or personal struggles. The whole point of this initiative, part of the fantastic Time to Change programme, is to to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination by creating an environment where people feel comfortable talking about such topics.
We learned not just how to spot signs that a colleague may be suffering, but how to handle that conversation. We’re not there to diagnose but to point people to the available resources for help. Of course you can always direct people to their GP but there are also various other routes within Accenture such as talking to HR, or there’s a counselling service available via telephone 24 hours a day. As a Mental Health ally I now have an addition to my email signature with this number included, and a link to the website to find out more. We have been armed with slide decks to spread the word on our accounts and get people talking. Even outside of work I spoke to all my housemates about it when I got home and have had conversations that may not have happened if it weren’t for this catalyst.