Breaking the Stigma around Mental Health

As part of the jam-packed Mental Health Awareness Week, we have scheduled at OMD UK, I was one of the lucky OMDers to attend the Breaking the Stigma Event held at Channel 4. The event was part of the Omnicom Group initiative OMG Minds, which seeks to bring the topic of mental health into the limelight and to empower people to talk about it more openly so that we can help and support each other.

During the introduction led by Philippa Brown (CEO of OMG), we heard that 300,000 people a year leave their place of work due to mental health-related issues. A shocking statistic which we can help reduce simply by talking about mental health, bringing it to the forefront and speaking openly about it. This was to form the backbone of the thought-provoking agenda which was laid out for us.

An important part of the morning was signing the ‘Time to Change Pledge’ led by Sean Betts, Managing Director of Annalect. Time to Change is the biggest programme in England that challenges the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health. Through partaking OMG UK have demonstrated their commitment to mental health and shown their dedication to changing the way we think and act about it at every level within the organisation.

During the session, we heard from three inspirational speakers who spoke about their individual relationships with mental health and why they believe it’s more important than ever to bring this current topic into the boardroom.

Having previously worked in television, Jana Dowling,  current CEO of Arkeo, and Founder of the 888 Collective, spoke in depth around how our behaviour impacts our mind and the importance of measuring mental fitness as well as empowering individuals and organisations to take control of it. Following a series of mental health related issues including severe depression and Bipolar disorder, through taking control and religiously tracking everything Jana did in her life she was able to recover. Her experience has lead to Jana’s current roles where she helps other people who have suffered mental health problems get back into work and provide them with the confidence to start communicating about their issues.

Julia O’Doherty, Succession Manager at OMG Tech EMEA broke down the myth around OCD (Obsessive- compulsive disorder) and poignantly outlined that if you are too scared to share what you are thinking it is harder to be helped. Julia went on to mention that for her, sharing what was going on was therapeutic and although it may not seem it at the time it eventually felt good!

Bringing a little sunshine into the room, Tony Latter, Head of Happiness Innovation (probably the best title ever) at The Happiness Index delved into the importance of giving humans a voice and an opportunity in the workplace to be human. The Happiness Index takes what matters most and creates software for humans to help people in their place of work be happy which is an important part of mental health well-being. The emphasis is on catching people doing good in the workplace and using data to make a difference!

I left the room feeling truly inspired by these people who had stepped up and talked so openly and confidently about their experiences with mental health. Jana pointed out in the panel session that the more committed we are to talking openly about mental health, the more barriers we can remove and ultimately start ‘Breaking the Stigma’.


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Harriet is part of the New Business and Marketing Team at OMD UK.

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