Mental health charity's campaign urges people to bring their 'whole selves' to work

Employers across the country are being targeted in a new campaign by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England to encourage people to be open and honest about themselves in the workplace.

The focus of the campaign will be My Whole Self Day, a new awareness day that will take place on Wednesday 18 March and aims to highlight the importance of people bringing their 'whole self' to work.

It is an attempt to encourage people to be open about who they are, whether it is to do with their sexuality or another aspect of themselves, which the not-for-profit organisation says is better for wellbeing and better for business.

The digitally led campaign is being promoted with the #MyWholeSelf hashtag.

One of its key messages is that people should not conform to a one-size-fits-all ‘work-shaped suit’ or be expected to leave part of themselves at the door when they get to work.

It will also highlight how, by putting diversity and inclusion at the centre of mental health and wellbeing, employers can create a culture where people can be their ‘whole self’ at work - which enables improved performance and greater creativity and innovation.

Personal experience

Simon Blake, chief executive of MHFA England, describes the campaign as something that will invite people to “find common ground, to connect with each other’s understanding of the world, to think bigger and bolder and to be empowered to work more effectively together”.

In a blog post written ahead of next month’s launch, Blake said: “I know from my own experience that I wasn’t able to deliver my best work when I was holding a secret before I came out [as gay]. Nor did I deliver my best work when I didn’t feel safe to talk freely about my relationships and social experiences. When you are hiding bits of yourself your mind is focused on protection rather than excellence and innovation.”

He added: “Day in, day out, people right across the country are going to work hiding parts of themselves for fear of discrimination, judgement, bullying, or harm.”

Bringing your whole self to work “builds psychological safety and deeper connections and research shows this is one of the key ingredients of every successful team,” according to Blake.

Earlier this month, MHFA England held an event at the House of Lords to brief stakeholders about the forthcoming campaign, and last week it launched a toolkit to support it, including resources ranging from digital posters and GIFs to social-media posts and web copy.

Call to action

Employers are being asked to run workplace events to mark My Whole Self Day.

Deanne Palmer, head of marketing and communications at MHFA England, said: “With this campaign we’re encouraging employers to take practical action to put diversity and inclusion at the centre of mental health and wellbeing. It’s about creating a culture where people can truly be their whole self at work.”

She said: “In 2020 we simply shouldn't have to leave aspects of our identity – be that our cultural background, sexuality, or mental health – at the door when we get to work. When we are able to be our authentic self, we are able to build healthy relationships and perform better, which impacts positively on our sense of belonging and wellbeing.”

Sector support

The PRCA, Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesses, and the Chartered Management Institute are among the organisations who have already indicated they will support the campaign.

Francis Ingham, director-general of the PRCA, said: “Our industry is dynamic and full of exciting opportunities, but we must also recognise that if we want to attract and retain the best talent we have to look after the wellbeing of our employees. Our research suggests that 89 per cent of the industry will struggle with their mental wellbeing at some point in their careers, and we need to act decisively.”

He added: “We urge professionals from across the industry to join Mental Health First Aid England's campaign and commit to positive change on this vital issue.”

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust(SWLSTG) is also supporting the new campaign.

Ranjeet Kaile, the Trust's director of comms, commented: “The highest-performing workplaces are supportive, inclusive and create a culture where people feel valued for who they are.”

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