I’ve worked in media for more than 20 years and I’m currently the president of Amplifi, the UK arm of Dentsu’s media investment division.
Growing up in east London, we didn’t talk about mental health and, honestly, I wouldn’t have listened if we did.
But since running headfirst into my own mental health crisis five years ago, I’ve committed to trying to change that – both at home and at work.
This is especially important today because not only has the pandemic caused people’s mental health to suffer more, it’s also made it harder for colleagues to spot the signs of strain or hear about what else might be going on in someone’s life.
At Dentsu, we’ve tried to combat this by making our mental health policies as public and as accessible as possible. It’s no use relying on discretion or assuming people will know that support is there. You have to signpost it and shout about it and recognise that you have a responsibility to people that stretches beyond their work.
With this in mind, we’ve committed to:
- Introducing a mental health first aiders programme across several of our markets. For the UK, we’re also increasing the number of mental health first aiders to achieve a 1:50 ratio – the recommended physical first aider benchmark outlined by HSE
- Investing in and educating our line managers on mental health to be better equipped to spot warning signs and to provide support to their teams
- Coming together for an annual week-long wellbeing festival featuring educational speaker sessions and engaging activities for everyone
- Launching a wellbeing podcast featuring our people, partners and clients sharing their own experiences
- Introducing weekly mindfulness, mental health timesheets and protected lunch hours
- Establishing wellbeing ambassadors across the business to help encourage conversation, promote resources available and provide feedback
- Providing up to three additional global wellness days a year across the organisation, for employees to take time and switch off
None of this offers a solution and in isolation none of the individual measures would work. Mental health support needs to be consistent, sustainable and all year round.
It requires people to feel confident to talk and it requires us all to listen.
I know first-hand how brilliant our industry can be when we put our uniforms to one side and harness our collective power. When I was in a bad place, friends, media partners, colleagues and even competitors sent me wonderful messages of support. That really helped me get back to being myself again.
I hope by adding my voice to the conversation and posting our policies publicly I can encourage other businesses to follow suit, or encourage someone to reach out, open up, or just show that it’s OK to struggle, and it’s OK to talk about. How amazing would it be if we could collectively agree a wellbeing day for our industry, where everyone in media, on the same day, took a day out for themselves. Maybe even other industries would follow suit.
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Steve Ballinger is president of Amplifi