This Is Me Scotland launch intends change workplace attitudes to mental health

A pioneering workplace mental health campaign has launched in Scotland today in a joint initiative between PwC, Barclays, Business in the Community Scotland, SAMH and Samaritans.

Described by Scottish Government as an “important step”, the This Is Me Scotland initiative aims to reduce the stigma of mental health and break the culture of workplace silence by supporting people to tell their own stories. The launch, which follows World Mental Health Day, mirrors similar initiatives in other parts of the UK. Since first launching in 2016, This Is Me has reached 750,000 people and signed up almost 500 businesses to its pledge.

Along with the launch partners, Pinsent Mason, Martin Currie, Student Loans Company and Baillie Gifford are all on the This Is Me Scotland Steering Committee.

More than 150 professionals came together at PwC’s Glasgow offices for the This Is Me Scotland launch to demonstrate their belief in the importance of talking about mental health.

Among businesses in attendance were major listed companies like RBS, Standard Life Aberdeen and Aggreko, to public sector organisations such as Police Scotland and Scottish Water.

Guest speaker Scott Hastings, the former Scotland, British & Irish Lions rugby international, and Ambassador - Support in Mind Scotland, spoke about the importance of good mental health, and making workers more comfortable discussing their mental health.

Scott said: "I believe that the This Is Me Scotland programme is a game changer that will reduce the stigma of mental health in the workplace. It will also encourage more people to talk about mental health and wellness in a work environment and lead to more inclusive workplaces. The fact that so many companies are supporting 'This is Me', is to be applauded and I am looking forward to expressing my support of the campaign today".

The initiative also has the backing of the Scottish Government. Minister for Mental Health, Clare Haughey said: “We want to ensure people dealing with mental health issues get the right help at the right time, free from discrimination and stigma. We are committed to working with employers on how they can act to protect and improve mental health, and support employees experiencing poor mental health. The launch of the This is Me Scotland campaign is an important step in creating workplaces and a society where people can talk openly without stigma or discrimination.”

PwC appointed its first full time Mental Health Leader in January 2016 and in the same year a group of wellbeing champions launched Green Light to Talk, aimed at encouraging mental health awareness and more open conversations at work. Green Light to Talk has gone on to become a global success story, reaching hundreds of thousands of workers.

Philippe Guijarro, an Edinburgh-based partner in PwC, has spearheaded the Scottish launch and is the founding chairman of This Is Me Scotland. He said: “More businesses of all shapes and sizes are beginning to realise how important it is to be mindful of the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. The launch of This Is Me Scotland, will help improve that further by letting people know that it’s okay to talk openly about mental help. PwC remains committed to create a workplace where everyone is able to achieve their full potential. Part of that is supporting all our colleagues and our wider communities in addressing the challenge that surrounds mental health.  And as part of our purpose as a business, we are focussed on supporting our employees and providing the correct resources to ensure that those who might need help and support know where to find it.”

Barclays has been focusing on tackling the stigma of mental health by engaging colleagues and ensuring everyone is comfortable to bring their whole self to work. Over the last two years the organisation has built up a network of fully accredited mental health first aiders to ensure the correct level of support and signposting is in place for all colleagues.

Scott Stewart, Barclays Scotland Site Lead, is passionate about ensuring all colleagues can feel supported in the workplace and said: “The partnership between Barclays, PwC, SAMH, Business in the Community Scotland and the Samaritans has enabled us to leverage combined passion and knowledge to drive change across corporate Scotland. This is Me Scotland will allow us to learn from each other and utilise our combined resources to demonstrate the importance of openly discussing mental health to encourage a supportive and understanding culture in the workplace”

James Jopling, Executive Director for Samaritans in Scotland, said:“Samaritans are thrilled to be involved with the launch of This is Me Scotland. The group is a huge step forward in marking a commitment from the nation’s employers that your wellbeing matters and that you shouldn’t be afraid to speak out if you are struggling to cope. Reducing our nation’s suicide rate is a big challenge that will need collaboration from us all and employers have a valuable role to play in this too.”

SAMH Executive Director of Delivery and Strategic Development Graeme Henderson said: "We are delighted to be part of This is Me Scotland launch. At SAMH we know that talking is one of the first steps to better mental health and we hope that This is Me Scotland will encourage people in the workplace to take action and start a conversation today.”

Alan Thornburrow, Scotland Director of Business in the Community, said: “Although our research in partnership with Mercer shows there has been slow incremental improvement of overall mental health at work over the past three years, collective and urgent action by employers is needed to build momentum quickly, taking a ‘whole person’ approach to physical, mental, financial and social health and wellbeing. We are proud to support the launch of This is Me Scotland, shining a welcome spotlight on the importance of open and honest communication when it comes to mental health in the workplace.”