It’s time to talk about…

Seeing Prince Harry, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge all smiling as they raced around the London Olympic Park track in February 2017, brings a smile to my face too. Upon reading the numerous news articles there is a real sense of purpose to this PR opportunity, where they are working to highlight the need to talk about mental health and remove any stigma attached; I find this initiative both commendable and also very necessary.

I am really passionate about our key people objective at ISS, which is to provide a safe and healthy work environment for everyone. This is based on the ISS Values and reflects our Leadership Principles – to look after both the physical and mental well-being of everyone in our employment.

In its simplest form, this is about ensuring all of our people are returned happy and safe to their family at the end of their working day.

On Thursday 2nd February 2017, we all had a chance to play a role in looking out for our colleagues’ mental health. Time to Change, an organisation that focuses on supporting people with mental illness, encourages people who have mental health problems to discuss them openly without fear, during a day entitled #time to talk.

Research shows that conversations about mental health change lives. The #timetotalk Day initiative encourages us all to speak up about mental illness and to highlight any worries or concerns people may have.

Organisations across the UK were invited to take part – as did we – revealing some very brave and personal stories. 

It is so often the case that too many people with mental health problems are made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless by other people’s reactions, and yet mental health issues affect 1 in 4 people. As the statistic shows, any one of us, or our families, can be impacted by mental health issues at any time – many of us probably know of someone but just don’t realise the difficulties they’re experiencing right now. So at ISS, we also started a conversation to support each other as colleagues and friends. One of the very open and honest conversations was with Paul, one of our valued chefs and you can read his story in his words in the case study.

Talking about mental health doesn’t need to be difficult. It can be as simple as making time to have a cuppa, or go for a walk with someone and listen to how they feel; or picking up the phone to a colleague you haven’t spoken to for a while, or thanking someone for something they have done to make them feel valued.

Being open about mental health and ready to listen can make a positive difference to someone’s life and I believe it is something that we can all do. The food service sector is renowned for rallying to the support of others and in such a fast paced sector, sometimes it is good to encourage a slow-down of pace as we connect people. You may be the listener or the talker; being receptive to both is important as it can really make a difference to someone’s life.

This is what the three royals running and Time to Talk Day was all about – giving us all the chance to talk and listen about mental health, whilst removing the stigma attached.