First class mental health

For the past year, the Mental Health Foundation has been working with Royal Mail Group to develop and produce five short films on mental health at work. This week, the films are being presented at the Royal Mail National Operations Conference in Birmingham.

This project is part of a wider programme of partnerships with business under development by the Mental Health Foundation. The films are part of a wide-ranging approach Royal Mail Group has taken to integrating mental health and wellbeing into the company’s renewed approach to health and wellbeing under the branding 'Feeling First Class'. 

For this project, we worked closely with Royal Mail Group to define the topic areas a film series would need to cover. We wanted to stay faithful to evidence, without being dry. We wanted to address stigma and distress throughout without being too heavy. Most importantly we wanted to hear from real people with real experiences.

Royal Mail Group has a high proportion of male staff in middle age, a key risk group for suicide in the UK, and a group that can be hard to reach. For this reason, we concentrated on featuring personal stories from people that connected with that demographic.

The films

Recognising distress

We all have mental health. We all have periods where we have trouble coping. This distress is something we can all empathise with on some level. This film introduces mental health and distress. The aim is to reduce the automatic 'pathologising' of distress into medical labels to help people better recognise and manage distress in themselves or others.

Self-help

We can all take steps to protect and improve our mental health. Often, we can also guide ourselves out of difficult times with simple techniques backed up with support. It can be hard to know where to start though. In this film we introduce three evidence-based, accessible strategies to address mental health and improve your moods and wellbeing…better sleep, physical activity, and mindfulness.

Supporting someone

The support of friends, family and colleagues is crucial in helping people get through difficult times, beat stigma and recover from mental health problems. Carers are also at greater risk of mental ill health. With this film we set out to provide direct and clear advice about how to be there for someone (colleague or not) when they are facing difficulties.

The first-time response to disclosing a problem can pattern a person's future approach to telling people about mental health problems. Providing an accepting, positive, and compassionate presence can really boost a person on their road to recovery.

Mental health and physical health

Having a long-term health condition like diabetes, heart disease or back pain can increase your risk of mental health problems. Long term absence from work does get you down, especially if you love your work, are suddenly inactive, lonely, or harder up as a result.

Living with a long-term condition can also present challenges and change that affect moods and work performance. It’s important to understand this and address concerns quickly to make sure outcomes are good. This film discusses the impact on mental health any illness can have, along with strategies like peer support and self-management that can help.

First-class mental health

Most people with common mental health problems like anxiety and depression are employed. Most people with long-term mental health problems want to work and, these days, thanks to the increased accessibility of workplaces, many people are living with a long term mental health problem like bipolar disorder whilst working. Supporting people into and back to work is good for business. In this film, Royal Mail Group staff came forward to speak on camera about the support they'd received and what that meant to them.

Since the films were made available to Royal Mail Group staff they have received positive feedback from across the business, being used for on-demand viewing, staff discussion sessions, and via features in the weekly internal TV news programme RMTV.

In December, Royal Mail Group launched the five films as a training module for managers. As of now, more than 2,000 Royal Mail managers are at least part way through the set, with more than 1,800 watching every minute of the films. Over 45,000 minutes of film have been viewed – more than a month of video. This resource has had the quickest uptake of e-learning training on the Success Factors internal training site.

Evidence tells us that stigma is best addressed by social contact - hearing direct personal testimony about mental health experiences from those who have lived experience and with whom you can empathise. It was amazing to see a huge response from Royal Mail Group staff prepared to tell their stories for the benefit of colleagues and the wider world. The authentic, forthright and courageous way in which staff at all levels told their stories in the final film moved our team, and brought goosebumps and even the odd tear to the Royal Mail Group staff working on the film series.

There is a shift underway towards openness at work. We have to remember, though, that for many people in many workplaces it isn’t okay to say, and it needs to be. The reality is that in many workplaces it still is not. In a brief poll on Twitter for the Foundation, only half of respondents felt they could discuss their mental health in their workplace. That must change. 

Programmes like Time to Change (in England and Wales) and See Me (in Scotland), whose latest Power of Okay campaign has been a viral success online, are key to this. The Foundation, as a management partner of See Me and with a broad interest in addressing stigma and discrimination is keen to continue to develop ways to promote contact-based anti-stigma drives at work.

We have found working on the development and production of the videos a hugely useful process in terms of helping to frame messages that work for the diverse workforce that Royal Mail Group has. It is valuable to get to know a business and build relationships with key staff over time. It’s what makes our approach stand out. We’d like to thank Royal Mail for the opportunity to work together, and especially thank all of those who took part in the films.

Judith Grant, Head of Occupational Health and Wellbeing at Royal Mail Group said of working with us:

"It was a real pleasure working with the team at the Mental Health Foundation. What started as a brief to replace an e-learning package on mental health developed into an awareness campaign of five films, that we have used as e-learning and as stand-alone films for team briefings.

"By working with the Mental Health Foundation we were reassured that the content would be well-researched and impactful but we were really pleased with the flexibility and dedication of the team to ensure that the films met the business brief and branding guidelines.

"Inviting colleagues to take part in the final film rounded off the success of the series and I continue to receive positive feedback from across the business on all the films. For us, this was the beginning of our awareness journey and I look forward to continued discussion and work with the Mental Health Foundation as our work continues."