Guest blog: Mental health at Coventry Building Society

Ahead of Time to Talk Day on 2 February, Coventry Building Society share their journey to remove stigma and getting people to talk about mental health.  

Ahead of Time to Talk Day on 2 February, Gemma Unwin, Senior Colleague Experience Specialist at Coventry Building Society shares the Society's journey to remove stigma and the steps they've taken to encourage people to talk about mental health. 

Our journey to removing stigma and getting people talking about mental health started in 2016 when we signed the Time to Change pledge. We really care about our colleagues and their wellbeing. Caring is one of our core values but we wanted to go beyond this and create a working environment where everyone can flourish and feel comfortable, healthy, happy and better off through life.

The pledge really kick-started our activity – we started hosting Tea and Talk sessions and marked Mental Health Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day each year with a number of events. We then trained Mental Health First Aiders and we've trained managers in mental health awareness too. Mental health is a key part of our wider wellbeing programme.

We started out with 20 trained MHFAs and now have 35 across the Society. Our MHFAs are key contacts for people in a mental health crisis, trained to listen; give support and information; encourage professional help and any other appropriate support.

The MHFA group meet quarterly to discuss experiences and various topics such as self care and support of upcoming wellbeing initiatives. Our mental health first aiders in the branch network are really important in supporting our members and wider community too.

In 2019 we drafted our Mental Health Commitment Statement, pledging to recognise that everyone has mental health and this will rise and fall depending on circumstances and experiences; create safe spaces to talk; not judge or treat anyone differently because of their mental health; and to make colleagues feel like they belong whatever their background and experiences.

We’ve introduced a number of support mechanisms including Wellness Action Plans to help us identify what keeps us well at work, what causes us to become unwell, and how to provide support. And all colleagues have access to confidential telephone or online counselling, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Immediate family can use this support too.

As well as providing awareness training for managers, they have access to online resources and we’ve introduced a guide to ‘Promoting Positive Mental Health’.

Roughly once a quarter we ask colleagues to complete a ‘Mood Meter’ to tell us how they’re feeling and ask us for anything specific they would like to improve their wellbeing. This helps us tailor wellbeing initiatives and focus on what matters most.

During the pandemic we provided additional mental health support to our colleagues in the form of webinars on thriving in challenging times and making time for yourself.

In 2022 we partnered with Peppy to support the mental health of colleagues going through the menopause or experiencing infertility.

We encourage business areas to think about what works for them and events from ‘coffee roulette’ to ‘colleague speed connect’ have been arranged to encourage people to stay connected, building and maintaining connections.

For Men's Health Awareness Month we ran a webinar on men's health issues, with mental health a key topic. We also set up a Men's Mental Health community on Yammer, our colleague social media platform, which now has 55 members sharing tips and resources.

For Time to Talk Day this year we’re encouraging people to get together for a chat, not just on February 2nd, but any time they need it. Tea and Talks and similar activities are being held across the Society.

It’s good to talk. We feel we’re all together better for it, and our colleagues do too. We’ve seen an increase in our mental and physical health wellbeing score on our latest employee engagement survey so we know our people feel more supported than ever. But there’s always more to do, and our mental health focus remains a priority for 2023 and beyond.

Visit: Coventry Building Society

The views, opinions and positions expressed within guest blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the BSA.