Every year, World Mental Health Day promotes mental health awareness and highlights the increasing importance of addressing mental health needs. This year, as part of our Group-wide wellbeing initiative, we’re hosting several events designed to educate, encourage and support positive mental health and wellbeing.
The Aztec Group has always had reputation for looking after our people, and ‘Caring’ is one of our five values. But as the events of 2020 unfolded, it became clear that we needed to take our commitment to caring – for ourselves and those around us – one step further – by putting in place a programme of health and wellbeing initiatives that every employee could call on when they needed it.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought worldwide disruption, affecting people from all walks of life. It has also shone a huge spotlight on the importance of maintaining good mental health. Research from the UK mental health charity MIND suggests that more than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) said their mental health got worse during lockdown. Many have developed new mental health problems as a result of the pandemic and, for some, existing mental health problems have gotten worse.
So, the annual World Mental Health Day, which this year is taking place on Saturday 10 October, is more timely than ever. The aim of the internationally recognised event is to set aside one day each year to raise awareness, remove the stigma around talking about mental health issues, and encourage people to share their personal experiences of looking after their own mental health.
Aztec’s programme of wellbeing events
The theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘Mental health for all’ and we have hosted a series of interactive events and initiatives to explore the key topic of resilience from every angle as part of our wellbeing programme. In the run-up to the day, our employees attended discussions and events, and were invited to use the new Wellbeing Hub to find valuable resources.
One of the highlights of the week was a round-table event with Victoria Milligan, who shared her story of resilience in the face of huge adversity. Victoria’s story inspired a round-table discussion between one of leadership members, Matt Horton, and two Mental Health First Aiders, Emily and Jev, who shared their own stories of resilience and hints and tips for managing anxiety in their personal and professional lives. Attended by over a third of our employees, the talk received many comments of appreciation for addressing subjects that are often shied away from in such an open and honest way.
Building on the theme of ‘mental health for all’, we also spent a day helping our managers to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental ill health in their colleagues, as well as show to have supportive conversations and work with our Mental Health First Aiders.
These events were all part of our normal working hours which shows the business dedication to the cause. Matt Horton, Group Head of Private Equity, explains why it’s crucial for everyone who works at Aztec to take time out of their working day to think about mental health:
“This year has demonstrated why everyone needs to prioritise mental health. With World Mental Health Day coming up, we want employees to feel they can stop what they are doing for an hour or two and use that time to really focus on themselves and their colleagues. We all work incredibly hard at Aztec, but the wellbeing programme is there to make sure everyone recognises that their mental health will always come first.”
Recognising that resilience is an essential life skill that can be acquired at any age, we’re also hosting Resilience through Mindfulness drop-in sessions for our employees over the next couple of weeks, to help demonstrate ways in which activities that focus on mindfulness can help create long-term resilience.
Our Mental Health First Aiders
One of the most rewarding aspects of our Wellbeing programme has been the introduction of Mental Health First Aiders. A total of 16 volunteers – spread across all our locations – were trained to identify signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety, offer support and point employees in the right direction should they need further help. Our volunteers were chosen to take part in the fully accredited mental health training, and they are all now available for anyone within Aztec to talk to, confidentially, about anything they choose to.
As Matt explains: “The fact that so many people volunteered is a real testament to the culture at Aztec, which is built on caring for each other and giving something back. This is a great support network for people who are worried, facing a crisis, or just simply need to talk. Sometimes a conversation with someone can work wonders for your mental health, so it’s great that our people have the support there when they need it.”
Keeping wellbeing at the top of the agenda
The initiatives that took place ahead of World Mental Health Day were just a small taste of the internal programme put in place to support and promote the physical and mental wellbeing of everyone who works at Aztec. Matt notes: “One of the more positive aspects of working through lockdown was that people took an active interest in each other’s mental health. It became entirely natural to start a meeting by asking “how are you?”. Now, it is up to all of us to keep these conversations going.”
Matt continued: “Mental health is a human right, and needs to be recognised as such. People should feel confident talking about their own mental health, and be ready to support others. To achieve this, we need to make sure every day is Mental Health Day, and our wellbeing programme will play a big part in achieving that.”
For more information about World Mental Health Day 2020 visit the World Health Organisation website