Goldman Sachs Gives and Mind Launch Mental Health Programme for UK Universities

Working culture: We can’t afford to ignore mental health

by Richard Gnodde, CEO of Goldman Sachs International

For a long time, mental health and the impact of our working culture on it has been a taboo subject in the City.

People are expected to work long hours at a challenging level of intensity. Some people thrive, but others find it more difficult. The traditional banking culture encouraged people to hide personal challenges. A brave face was a necessary piece of kit for success.

Shifting such entrenched attitudes takes both time and leadership. The greatest barrier to removing the stigma is a vicious cycle of people feeling the need to be silent.

Business leaders who have sent a strong signal by speaking openly about their experiences of mental ill health and recovery have made a considerable contribution — António Horta-Osório, Lloyds Banking Group’s chief executive, Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive of Salesforce UK, and Tom Bradby, ITV’s news anchor, to name but a few. Their organisations are better for it. This kind of leadership, alongside a generational shift in attitudes towards mental health, has helped to achieve significant progress in making people feel able to talk about, and to seek help with, their mental health at work.

At Goldman Sachs, 70 per cent of our workforce are millennials who are more focused on wellbeing in its broadest sense and rightly have high expectations of their employers. We take a holistic approach to improving awareness and practical support. We co-founded the City Mental Health Alliance, through which large City employers collaborate to set new standards in workplace mental health. The basics include providing a 24/7 support line for employees and as a large employer we are able to give access to on-site doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists, as well as broader wellbeing support like an on-site gym and childcare centre. To date, we’ve put 1,000 managers through tailored training for mental health support and are implementing a Mental Health First Aiders programme that will equip people with skills to support their colleagues.

The mental wellbeing of our employees has to be considered in the context of their whole lives and our communities. The majority of mental health conditions take hold around the time students are transitioning to higher education. Therefore, we believe that supporting mental wellbeing in the workplace should start in the pool from which we primarily recruit — universities.

Each year tens of thousands of young people in the UK apply to work here and hundreds are welcomed into our workplace. Recent research of 37,000 UK students suggested that as many as a third experience psychological issues requiring professional help. Many more face challenges undiagnosed and without support. The City Mental Health Alliance reported that 64 per cent of students believe that disclosing past or continuing mental health issues hinders chances of working in the City. This can deter them from even applying — in which case both students and employers lose out.

To this end, Goldman Sachs is announcing a partnership with Mind, the leading mental health charity. A group of Europe-based Goldman Sachs partners have committed initial funding of £1.5 million to this partnership with an intention to scale this over time.

As the stigma of mental health recedes, the call on systems to provide support will increase. University counselling services are stretched and while there won’t be one single solution to the growing issue of mental health at universities, it is to be hoped that this initiative is one of many that will help.

Our university initiative begins with a pilot of new mental health training. Delivered by Mind, the programme aims to equip students and staff in selected universities with the knowledge, new skills and confidence to take care of their own mental health, as well as to help others. It is our hope that as well as providing training to a population that faces increasing pressures, this small step will be a catalyst for more conversations and an improvement in resources dedicated to mental health support. That this conversation happens between those in education and those in the workplace is recognition that we are all part of a symbiotic, interdependent system.
 

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Read more on the importance of mental health from Sally Boyle, international head of Human Capital Management at Goldman Sachs, here.