SOUTHAMPTON CITY COUNCIL PROUDLY LEADS THE WAY IN COMBATING MENTAL ILLNESS
Southampton’s Labour-run council have taken the bold step of signing the ‘Employers Pledge’, at an informative and moving signing event in the Mayor’s Parlour at the Civic Centre on Thursday 1st February. It was attended by local press, mental health organisations, and individuals who work within the mental health sector.
Signing the pledge has committed Southampton City Council to take specific steps, including following a clear action plan, to address mental health discrimination in the workplace. To do this they will work closely with the organisation ‘Time to Change’, who also promote #timetotalk day, which was, very fittingly, on the same day.
The attendees heard the moving story of Jonny Benjamin and his struggle with mental health issues that led him so close to taking his own life. Also the story of Neil Laybourn, who met him on Westminster Bridge that day and tried to help. The two then lost contact that day and were only reunited years later after an incredible marketing campaign that went viral.
Karen Shaw, from the ‘Time to change’ organisation, was also present to give more interesting insight into the organisation that is now working with 25 employers, including large construction companies and football clubs. It seeks to ensure that the stigma around mental health is removed, and that a bad mental health day can be as openly discussed, and that someone can receive as much support from an employer, for a mental health issue as for any other form of injury or any physical disability. One part of the story that appeared really interesting and poignant was that Jonny “Thought I was the only person going through this”. Neil’s memory of the day was that “it all started with a conversation that I didn’t really know how to have”. Yet the two connected and have become great friends since, and are committed and passionate about doing some tangible work to remove mental health stigma and to help people be more open about it. After all, 1 in 6 employees, at any one time, may experience mental health challenges. This is clearly an important issue that needs to be tackled.
After some moving discussion, good questions, and clear engagement by all, the employer's pledge was proudly signed by the Council leader, Simon Letts. ‘Time to change’ were aware of about 25 new organisations signing up on that day. The message of the day was very clear and was put very simply by the council’s champion for mental health; Paul Lewzey, that “It’s OK to talk about mental health
You can find out more about Jonny’s story and ‘Time to Change’ below: