October 11, 2018

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Mental Health

World Mental Health Day: 12 men talking

At midday yesterday, 12 men gathered together for 12 minutes to talk about the 12 men who statistically will commit suicide that day in an initiative by Thames Water to raise awareness for World Mental Health Day.

World Mental Health Day

The men, dressed in their Thames Water work uniforms, from engineer to scientist, and call centre agent to sewer network engineer, stood in a circle together on small boats in the centre of the River Thames in Reading.

They held each other’s arms to prevent their friends from drifting away and observed one minute of silence followed by 11 minutes of discussion about how the company has a role in supporting mental health at work and preventing suicide – by getting men talking.

Thames Water is one of the main driving forces behind moving mental health to the top of the wellbeing agenda nationally after reducing work-related illness absence by 75% in the last five years. It was one of the first companies in the world to implement a virtual reality education course on mental health for its workforce.

In a recent blog, Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson described Thames Water’s employee wellbeing programme as ‘one of the most comprehensive I have ever seen’.

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, highlighting the importance of mental health.

Research has shown that 16 million people experience a mental health problem each year and it is now the biggest killer among men. In 2017, 4,383 men committed suicide – that’s 12 every day. To help combat the issue, Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday appointed a new Minister for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention.

Karl Simons, Thames Water’s Chief Health, Safety & Security Officer, is responsible for health and wellbeing at the company. He said: “At times men can feel like they’re drifting away and drowning in worry through the responsibilities they hold, and it can lead to a very dark place.

“I want to encourage all the men working at Thames Water to speak up if they feel this way, whether to a friend, a colleague, a manger or a medical professional. The vital support they may need is definitely available.

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.”

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