Sally Boyle: Mentally Healthy Universities
Sally Boyle, international head of Human Capital Management, speaks about the importance of mental health in both education and the workplace.
By Sally Boyle
When I think back to my time at university, mental health was not something we openly talked about. Frankly, it was a bit of a taboo subject. That’s not to say there weren’t the same stresses and pressures as there are today - there certainly were. Whether it was pressure of living away from your parents for the first time, budgeting, or managing your workload – university can be a stressful time.
Every year we welcome over 400 interns to our office in London, and many more around the world. This is a fantastic opportunity for students, but it’s undeniably competitive and it can be challenging to apply for these opportunities while focusing on university studies. As a large employer, we have an obligation not only to support our own people in their ongoing health and wellbeing, but to also to support those just starting their careers.
We’ve seen, through research by the City Mental Health Alliance, that 64% of students surveyed felt that a mental health condition would be a barrier to a successful career in the City. For me this was surprising, disheartening and demonstrates quite clearly more needs to be done to support students and help prepare them for entering the workforce. In fact, I recently learnt that the majority of mental health conditions begin before we reach the age of 18, which makes early support and education around this topic all the more critical.
This is just one of the reasons we’re launching a new programme with Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity, to provide mental health training for students and staff across 10 Universities. The programme will aim to equip these groups with new knowledge, skills and confidence to support and improve their own and others mental wellbeing.
We also recognise our responsibility to support our staff once they have entered the workforce. Earlier this month we moved into our new European headquarters in London, Plumtree Court, which has been designed with employee wellbeing top
of mind, with on-floor contemplation rooms, onsite psychologists, a psychiatrist and a mental wellbeing nurse, as well as fitness and holistic studios.
In both my career and my personal life, I have been a big advocate of the power of connecting. Simply discussing whatever is going on in our lives can alleviate a whole host of worries or concerns, and I actively encourage this type of open dialogue with my team. I’ve also spoken a lot in my blogs about inclusion – and I consider this openness as an intrinsic part of inclusion. Ensuring we create an environment where people can be open, share their thoughts and support one another is in my view essential to our success - as individuals throughout our careers, and for businesses as a whole.