Established more than 21 years ago by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week marks an important period in our calendar. Attracting more and more attention with each passing year, it represents an opportunity for the whole of the UK to channel energy into promoting good mental wellbeing.
Difficulties with mental health are more widespread than many of us realise. According to Mind, one in four people in England will experience some form of mental health issue every year, with as many as one in five admitting to having had suicidal thoughts at least once in their lifetime.
In our industry, a 2020 study by the University of Portsmouth found that almost 40% of security officers in the UK are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), having been exposed to frequent episodes of verbal and physical abuse. Many of our colleagues in the sector are former military personnel, one in five of which are subject to mental illness according to the Centre for Mental Health.
This makes campaigns like Mental Health Awareness Week so important to get behind.
At Corps, a critical pillar of our existence as a social enterprise centres around the physical and mental wellbeing of our people – both of which are treated on a level playing field. Indeed, our Corps Together initiative doesn’t just exist to improve equality, diversity and inclusion. It is devised to ensure that our colleagues feel protected, safe and empowered. Mental health is therefore part of the fabric of this programme – where differences are valued, and people feel comfortable speaking with their colleagues about issues.
Conversation is critical in proactively managing and mitigating mental health problems stemming from or exacerbated by the workplace. By creating an environment where colleagues feel comfortable and safe speaking to us, we can identify where extra support is needed and reinforce those networks to ensure help is always available.
Such an approach has been invaluable throughout the past two years, the pandemic having placed ever greater strains on our collective mental health in several ways. In response, we created a Colleague Welfare Fund to support employees in various situations of need, covering funeral costs, paying bills for a terminally ill colleague and funding additional counselling sessions for individuals struggling with mental health issues.
We also recognise the value of charities such as Combat Stress which tirelessly supports military veterans suffering from mental health problems. Indeed, Corps Security emerged from one of the greatest causes of social hardships – war. In 1859, the firm was established to provide employment opportunities to soldiers returning from the Crimea, and we continue to honour that commitment to the ex-military community today. As Mental Health Week continues to go from strength to strength in the UK, it serves as a timely reminder that organisations such as ours have such a crucial role to play in uplifting the emotional wellbeing of people in our society.