Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
March 5, 2024

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

SHP Awards

Rising Star Winner: Samantha Cartwright on wellbeing and making a positive difference

From a seven-year-old alone in her room, feeling isolated and not understanding herself to driving change in the wellbeing sector and having a positive impact on all employees – meet the woman using her own experience to help others not struggle in silence as she did.

Samantha Cartwright would spend two hours doing ‘rituals’ she felt were necessary before bed each night as a little girl – but had no idea it was in fact obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

It would be another five years until the condition was diagnosed and many more years of hiding these compulsions from others, feeling alienated and suffering from depression and panic attacks before she was able to use this as a force for good.

Further reading: Samantha Cartwright is announced winner of SHP’s Rising Star award

Isolated and alienated 

Samantha Cartwright holding her SHP Award

Now 24, she is the first person to be appointed to the role of Health and Wellbeing Lead at London Luton Airport and is determined to not only help colleagues there, but across the country.

“I have always been passionate about wellbeing,” she said.

“Many years of feeling isolated and alienated ignited my desire to make a change, I don’t want anyone else to feel like that.

“If people don’t know me or don’t see me at home, where compulsions are at their worst, they wouldn’t know anything was wrong – I’ve also suffered great loss after a family member took their own life. This was a real eye opener.

“It has made me think how many other people must be suffering all sorts of things in silence.

“You need to know it is not always ‘what you see is what you get’ and that is where my passion for wellbeing comes from.”

Samantha seemed destined for a wellbeing role – starting with a great interest in A Level Psychology and going to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for her OCD, then volunteering as a call companion at the befriending charity for elderly people Re-engage.

Samantha knew she had a passion for helping people and making a positive difference and always thought she would become a therapist specialising in OCD.

Her first job was at a social housing association, a challenging sector that built up her resilience and her desire to support those who need it. Samantha felt that she had found her purpose.

Compassion satisfaction

She said: “I enjoyed that job so much as you could literally see the positive impact you were having on people.

“I was on the frontline making a difference, but I did wonder what difference I could make from the logistics side.

“My passion evolved to a desire to drive strategic change and focus on psychological safety, which was a new challenge for me. I wanted to be part of the movement to bring wellbeing to the forefront of everyone’s mind and contribute to the creation of a society where we understand, accept and support one another, without the fear of stigma. It’s safe to say, I absolutely love my job and feel fulfilled helping others.”

Since joining London Luton Airport Samantha has played a pivotal role in the development of a number of key employee wellbeing initiatives including introducing a ‘Let’s Talk Mental Health’ campaign through the company’s weekly employee newsletter, the proactive use of mental health first aiders, she created a centralised wellbeing hub for all things wellbeing related, launched 1-2 1 Wellbeing Action Plans and Departmental Wellbeing Risk Assessments, delivered mandatory management training on wellbeing and much more.

Sam’s work and the airport’s broader approach to promoting the importance of positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace also received prestigious industry recognition in 2023, when the LLA Health and Safety team received an award for ‘Best Approach to Mental Health and Wellbeing (for a Large Airport)’ by leading trade body, the Airport Operators Association (AOA).

What she calls her ‘compassion satisfaction’ is heightened when she sees the impact of her role improving the lives of others. Even though talking confidently and vulnerably is not something that comes naturally to her, Samantha pushes herself as she knows only too well how validating it is to see or hear someone else talking about something you yourself suffer with.

Step out of your comfort zone


“I don’t like talking about myself, my experiences and feelings – in my family environment growing up, we were always close and supportive, but typically quite jokey and didn’t often discuss feelings. I spent many years hiding these things from everyone around me, mostly due to the embarrassment and shame that I felt,” she added.

“If I can’t be vulnerable then I can’t lead that change”

“But Covid helped my confidence, being behind a screen helped me talk about it and after I did a company wide talk in my previous role about OCD for a mental health event, the response helped my confidence too.

“If I can’t be vulnerable then I can’t lead that change, you need to role model that behaviour so I made the decision to be vulnerable from the off in this role.

“I also suffer from something called Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) which is not well known at all – I once saw celebrities talking about this and the impact of hearing people talk about something you suffer with is so liberating and freeing – I felt validated, so knowing I could make others feel that way just by opening up pushes me even more.

“If one person is affected by what you say, either for themselves or someone they know, then you have made a difference.”

Influence the sector

As well as sharing best practice with others, Samantha approaches her role in a variety of ways.

She believes it is important to get feedback and act on it, not be afraid to question something and recognise which changes need to be brought in by imagining situations from another perspective.

“You need to put yourself in other people’s shoes to see what’s right and what is needed,” she said.

“If you make all these changes but no one wants them, it isn’t going to work.

“We need to encourage an environment where people are comfortable to be their authentic self – instead of putting a plaster on something that has happened, it is about stopping us getting to that place in the first place.

“We need to recognise the importance of this role and I want to be a positive driver for that across the airport and beyond, I am loving the challenge.”

Big future ahead

As well as leading all these changes in little over a year as part of her role at London Luton Airport, Samantha has also won the SHP Rising Star award and hopes to be speaking at health, safety and wellbeing conferences in the coming years.

She added: “I would love to see more younger people not being afraid to step out and go against the norm, inciting change.

“There aren’t enough younger speakers in the wellbeing space, for example at conferences, which may mean you’re not getting enough perspectives – if there were, you could use it to understand the needs of different generations and help drive change that is suitable for everyone.

“Life experience is important in this role and it is not just about what experience you have in the workplace and that life experience helps to increase empathy and the passion to support people and drive change.

“Whatever people have been through in life, they could help enhance the wellbeing of others just by starting conversations – the discussions around mental health do not always have to be negative, it doesn’t define you and it can influence the direction of your life in a positive way if you learn how to harness it – through wellbeing we want to talk about it to to remove that negative stigma and create an environment where we can all thrive.

“There is much more to be done across the sector but I feel like we’re heading in the right direction, it doesn’t matter what role you’re in, we can still drive change.”

Why should you subscribe to the SHP newsletter?

Do you want the very latest health and safety news, product launches, job listings and expert opinions sent straight to your inbox daily?

The SHP newsletter is essential reading – sign up today to get your hands on all this!


Related Topics

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments