A team of Thames Water employees took part in a powerful World Mental Health Day demonstration today to highlight the importance of having open conversations.
Dressed in their various work uniforms, the group of 12 stood on paddle boards on the River Thames to represent the number of male suicides every day in the UK.
After holding a minute’s silence to remember those who have died, they spent 11 minutes talking about their experiences of mental health.
While the aim was to encourage more open discussions among men, the company is working hard to ensure mental health ceases to be a taboo subject for all its employees.
Karl Simons, Thames Water’s chief health, safety and security officer, said: “What we have done on the river today signifies the 12 men who will lose their lives today to suicide.
“It represents that every day people from all walks of life can feel they are drifting away and drowning, but by working together and speaking about things we can support each other.
“At Thames Water we are doing more than ever in terms of our mental health strategy, from mental health first aiders to awareness courses, which are all aimed at helping our people.”
“So our message is please, if you’re in need, have the conversation.”
Recently hailed as one of the most ‘comprehensive’ employee wellbeing programmes he has ever seen, Virgin boss Richard Branson, praised Thames Water which has reduced work place absences by 75 per cent in the last five years.
The company has a Time to Talk Strategy, which has seen volunteers take part in a two-day training course to help them listen, talk to and support anyone experiencing difficulties. Those who have completed the course are presented with a green lanyard so everyone can easily see who they can speak with.
In the first six months, mental health first aid aiders supported more than 100 people compared with just 20 Physical first aid interventions in the same period.
Karl added: “Tackling mental health problems early reduces subsequent problems and improves the chances of recovery. Workplaces, not only the NHS, should have a part to play in supporting this movement.”
• World Mental Health Day, supported by the United Nations (UN), is held on October 10 every year to raise awareness about mental health issues worldwide. It promotes open discussions on illnesses, as well as investments in prevention and treatment.
• In 2017, 4,383 men died by suicide – that’s 12 every day.
• Research has shown that 16 million people experience a mental health problem each year. It is now the biggest killer among men.
• Thames Water was featured as a case study in the UK Government’s independent review of mental health and employers by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer, called ‘Thriving at Work’ and published last November. Read more here.
• Thames Water developed a new mental health awareness training course, Mind-Fit, using virtual reality and immersive technology as part of its ‘Time to Talk’ strategy – putting you in the shoes of somebody experiencing how it feels to be suffering the effects of negative mental stressors at work and home.
• Poor mental health costs employers between £33bn and £42bn a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of between £74bn and £99bn.