February 1, 2018

Time to Talk Day

How are you? Many of us will answer ‘fine’, even when we’re not. Too often, mental health issues are treated as a taboo subject – something not to be talked about, especially at work.

Today is Time to Talk Day, a day when everyone is encouraged to have a conversation about mental health.

It’s easy to think there’s no right place to talk about mental health. But the more we talk about it, the better life is for all of us.

Here at the Co-op, we want all of our colleagues to feel they can be open about their mental health, and ask for support if they need it. So we’ve got tools to help you start the conversation. There’s our Mental Health Policy that explains the signs of mental health concerns and what support is available, and our Wellbeing Action Plans that we can all use to help us to stay mentally healthy at work.

We’ve also got our Employee Assistance Programme who you can call on 0800 069 8854 for help on dealing with mental health issues, including accessing counselling. It’s independent and totally confidential, and there’s no charge for Co-op colleagues. We’re also working on new colleague wellbeing support initiatives that’ll be announced throughout this year.

Mental health problems affect one in four of us yet people are still afraid to talk about it. For people with mental health problems not being able to talk about it can be the worst part of the illness. By getting people talking about mental health we can break down stereotypes, improve relationships, aid recovery and take the stigma out of something that affects us all.

So, tell me, how are you?

Gary Dewin
Director of Pensions, Reward, Benefits & ER

Join the conversation! 51 Comments

  1. I agree with the comments of the lack of private space in 1AS. The break out areas are being taken over by people using them as work space. You sometimes can’t go and have your lunch break and get some peace. The design of the office space is bad, it’s overcrowded and noisy which makes it hard to work. It’s also hard that you are surrounded by extroverts, and they make you feel like you are the odd one out. Saying things like if only you had more confidence. This is annoying as they don’t understand, as it is not always a confidence thing.

    This place gets you down, stressed and anxious.

    • Hi Introvert, I understand and appreciate your concerns. However, we do have areas in 1AS that can be used as quieter areas such as the high backed chairs and a quiet room on the Ground Floor in B Core, single person meeting rooms and single person booths. Whilst not perfect these places are available.

      • But booking any kind of room in 1AS is a challenge at short notice let alone a room which meets a particular set of needs.

        • The Quiet Room on the ground floor and most of the smaller booths and working spaces mentioned above aren’t in the booking system, you can just take them over. There’re also a few spaces on the ground floor, which while not designated quiet areas, are probably suitable for having a bit of time away.

          I’ve also found the Business Lounge to also be a Godsend when I need time away, it’s not the quietest but because it’s such a mix of people, it’s a lot easier to tune out and focus.

          Bob me an email and I will share what I’ve found if you like. 🙂

    • People using break rooms as work space is not acceptable. Why is this being allowed to happen? People use break rooms to get away from work, those using it for work should have to find somewhere else.

    • Hi Introvert, it’s sad to hear that you are receiving comments such as “have more confidence”, this is exactly the sort of misconception around mental health issues that needs to be addressed, A number of us are getting together later this week to talk about how we can help support colleagues across the Co-op and one of the things I think we should consider, assuming we get a support group off the ground, is how we educate people on this type of thing. In my view it is no different from all the good work that is being done to help the LGBTQ+ community by raising awareness of the things that people, often well meaning, say and do that are problematic.

    • This is due to a lack of understanding, there are lots of people who feel as vulnerable as you but don’t talk about it. I hope you have someone on your team you can confide in, together you could deliver a mental health awareness talk to give people a better understanding of how it affects people. I have experienced it in my family and have seen first hand how damaging and destructive it can be. Don’t give up hope and stay strong.

  2. I’ve been an advocate for better acceptance of mental health issues in the workplace for a long, long time. I’m now a Mental Health First Aider, and I think that it’d be great to get more of them into the business.

    For TTC day, I thought I’d share the email I sent to my team here too. 🙂

    Time to Talk is an initiative from Time to Change, a UK campaign run by charities such as Mind and Rethink. Time to Talk simply recognises that in order to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and wellbeing, the simplest thing is to talk about it.

    It is getting better. When I first opened up about my own problems in 2012, I was in quite a lonely group, I was called brave, courageous when I felt nothing of the sort! But we’ve still got a long way to go, far too many people with mental health problems feel isolated, ashamed or alone.

    Imagine that feeling you get when you miss a step at the bottom of the stairs, or you miss-step off a kerb. That lump in your throat, all a bit shaky, weak at the knees. Your heart pounding, all the adrenaline pumping for absolutely no rational reason. You weren’t in any particular danger, you weren’t being attacked by a sabre-toothed tiger – and yet, you’re left feeling like you’ve been hit by a train and wondering what the hell just happened.

    Now imagine feeling that feeling for an hour.

    How about a day? Or a week?

    For me, anxiety manifests itself through that feeling, I get a lump in my throat like I’m constantly about to start bawling (no matter how I’m feeling), and I can feel that adrenaline pumping all day. It’s a horrible and exhausting way to live, and I often can’t pinpoint what the cause it. Sometimes it’s something completely and utterly irrational. But I have developed techniques over the years and actually, through speaking up and having conversations, I’ve discovered I am far from alone in my experiences.

    • Hi Beci. Thank you so much for sharing this. ^Rachel

    • Hi Beci. You are far from alone. I’ve dealt with varying degrees of anxiety since I was seven years old. No-one would ever know because like you it’s become part of who I am and I manage it. I can go months without anything then suddenly it hits me and it could hang around for days, weeks or months. I had a particularly bad six months last year and felt all the feelings you’re describing. I think it’s amazing that you’re being so pro-active in helping others. I’m lucky enough to have family and friends who are there to support and listen when it’s bad. Funnily enough work is the place where it almost disappears and I forget.

    • Beci,

      This is a great post, I always struggle to explain what anxiety feels like, you nailed it!

      How does one go about becoming a mental health first aider? I would be very interested in doing this.

  3. Nobody told me.

  4. A really interesting initiative and yes, would be great to have a reminder a little earlier for next year….
    I am glad to see a mention of support for those living with someone currently needing support for their mental health. I hope the well -being policy could incorporate that as an option, eg is there any support you need to help you support other’s mental health (might be a private space to make a phone call, adjusting working hours or working from home)
    Would like to see an update from the digital group too.
    Thanks very much for raising my awareness.

    • I am not sure about other locations but at Angel Square Head office private spaces are lacking. The open plan design of every floor and lack of any places to make a private phone call are a real problem. I suppose you could consider the disabled toilets on each floor, but that would be a wholly inappropriate use of them.

      • Hi Lack of private spaces. I’ll feedback your concerns to our Facilities team. ^Rachel

      • Open plan offices are not mice places to be form some introverts. Personally I much prefer small office areas. 1AS is not a great place if you like your privacy.

      • Hi Lack of Private Spaces, we do actually have single person meeting rooms on floors as well one person booths where such calls can be made.

      • The awful thing is working in Funeralcare and in a branch, it’s the opposite. The isolation and lack of contact can be soul destroying, not even a phone call some days.

        Agree would have been good to know in advance maybe next time…

    • Barbara,

      I think support for those who are living with someone with mental health problems is really important. It can be difficult, bewildering and very upsetting for family members when someone they love and care for is ill, being able to talk to someone who understands will not only be good for them but by helping them understand will indirectly help the person with the illness as well.

  5. I agree with Alex’s comment. Whilst it’s great that the Co-op is supporting/promoting this, it needed to be much more high profile, with communications being issued leading up to this day & leaflets/promotion cards being available/handed out in our offices. Mental health issues are a key reason for sickness absence & there could have been a co-ordinated campaign aligned to this day.

    • Hi Lisa. I’ll make sure I feed your suggestion back. ^Rachel

    • I agree. We have, at least three colleagues with mental health issues, we have no private space in our store and lots of bullying via gossiping. We need more awareness. My boss said there was a special day and he would organise some sort of drop in area but this never happened. The trouble with many stores is that the business(R/O and gap etc) takes priority over people. As a Council member and union rep i have spent the last 9 months trying to raise awareness in my store but it needs more input from managers and even people skills type training for managers and team leaders.Harsh words from a Team Leader to a CTM with mental health issues can lead to that CTM feeling isolated and vulnerable.

      • Hey Sandra what a great idea – and why stop at team leaders? What a huge difference it could make to loneliness felt in our communities, and mental health, if every store colleague had basic listening skills training? Every customer spoken to could potentially benefit, as well as benefitting inter colleague relationships.

        Maybe we should apply to our own community fund for money to do a pilot?

        • Hi Barbara. Community fund may be worth a try. We definately need time sort of training in our stores. And yes, not just relating to colleagues but also for customers and community.

  6. I really recommend our new employee assistance provider, Lifeworks. I know there is no substitute for reaching out to friends and family, but there are times when that not possible. I have called Lifeworks on several occasions and have found them very helpful.

  7. Hey Moderators,

    If colleagues want to connect directly as part of a conversation here what’s the best way of doing this without posting email addresses in the forum?

    • Hi Tony and Holly. If you send an email to communications@coop.co.uk I can connect you both. Thanks ^Rachel

    • Hi Tony,

      I’m leading the Colleague Wellbeing Programme here at Co-op so I’ve asked Rachel if I can join up with you and Holly to work together to create a blueprint that any of our Colleagues could use to set-up a support network in their own area.

      Thanks for engaging in this piece and I look forward to getting in touch.

      • Hi please can someone connect me with some more information. I work in funeralcare and would love to help pioneer raising awareness of mental health in our business area as I know it affects a lot of people and I would be really interested in getting involved!

  8. Do we have a support network for co-op colleagues who have been affected by mental health issues either themselves or with a friend or family member or partner – something like Aspire and Respect?

    I’m sure there are colleagues who would appreciate someone outside friends/family and not in their work peer group to open up to. Loads of resources, classes and workshops we could do – things like CBT, mindfulness techniques, coaching for difficult conversations and talking about feelings, emotional resilience, health and wellness, listening groups. We could pool our resources for fundraising for selected mental health charities – link it into the Colleague Wellbeing Strategy or the co-op’s existing work to combat social isolation and loneliness! We could keep the conversation going year round – not just once a year!

    • Hi Holly. There isn’t specific group set up at the moment but as I told Tony who commented before, a colleague from Co-op Digital set up a group – find out more here https://digitalblog.coop.co.uk/2017/05/08/our-mental-health-meet-ups-and-why-they-matter/. I could put you in touch with Tony who’s interested in doing something similar. Also Steve Murrells talked a lot about colleague wellbeing in his Stronger Co-op, Stronger Communities five-year plan so you’ll be hearing much more about how Co-op are going to help colleagues. Thanks ^Rachel

    • Holly, some fantastic ideas there, I’m keen to set something up, or (as I’m quite lazy) join an existing group at Co-op. If we set something up would you be able to get involved?

      • Hi Tony & Holly,
        I’m a Diversity & Inclusion Pioneer for the Group Support function. We are currently looking at things we can do in relation to supporting colleagues Mental Health, we are working with Paul & his team and are looking into how we can link up with the other D&I teams across the wider business to get the best impact & support colleagues in the best way. We are looking at resources that are available at the moment, e-learning and lots more. It would be great to have a catch up with you both and introduce you to Andrew & Rachel who are working with me on this in our D&I team. I’m on emilie.fellingham@coopdigital.co.uk – pop me over an email and we can arrange a meet up or call.

  9. I’ve had a long period working from home due to illness. I’m back in the office now but whilst I was at home I felt very isolated. The support and understanding from my boss and colleagues was invaluable. I think because I was able to be open and honest about my feelings and worries it made it easier for them to know how best to help.

  10. Is there a Co-op support group for colleagues with mental health illnesses and their families? If not, how do we go about setting one up?

  11. Why is such and important article less prominent on our intranet than our slot on Corrie?

  12. Is there a website or email for Employee Assistance Programme, the old one validium had a website. Why is it always a phone number to ring. This makes it really hard for the some people.

    • Hi Introvert,

      There is a website and app which will go-live later this month so watch this space. We took the decision to go-live with the helpline first as this is most utilised.

      Bear with us and watch for news on the Lifeworks app.


      • Thanks.
        I suffer from anxiety and one of my main problems is phone anxiety. Even though I have to use one for my job.
        I will keep a look out for them when there go live.

        • I have the same thing! Didn’t realise that others suffered with phone anxiety too. For me it’s not so much the actual conversation, but the lead up to making the call or seeing/hearing the phone ring. Such a horrible feeling. So pleased to hear that it’s not just me. I just googled it for the first time and there are quite a few things on it out there, with suggestions to help overcome the anxiety. Thanks for sharing Introvert and for helping me feel less alone.:)

Comments are closed.


Colleague support