How we’re improving mental health at Direct Line Group – Simon Linares

We are all individual and unique, but something we have in common is how important our wellbeing is to our health, happiness and ability to do our jobs successfully. Mental Health is at the heart of our Wellbeing Strategy and we are delighted to be partnering with This Can Happen so that mental health continues to be at the forefront of Direct Line Group’s agenda.

We all know what it’s like to feel stressed – it’s part of everyday life. But when you’re overwhelmed by stress it may lead to mental health problems or make existing problems worse.

Stress is not a mental health problem itself. The stress response is a survival strategy to keep us safe. However, researchers have found that when stress becomes a way of life – rushing from pillar to post – this increases our risk of addictive and destructive behaviour, of developing anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. It can also increase risks of physical health problems including heart disease, insomnia, muscle pain and damages our immune system…the list goes on. In one of life’s bitter ironies, our stress response – which has done so much to keep us alive – now threatens to drastically reduce the quality of our lives.

Stress, depression and mental health issues are unfortunately increasingly common in the UK. At Direct Line Group, we give colleagues immediate access to free and confidential support, with professional, independent and impartial information and counselling. Staff can talk to our external provider about any issue including stress, work issues, finances, family or personal crisis or anything else that is on their mind.

We also have information and training available on our intranet on stress awareness, bereavement and managing workloads.

It is a difficult issue but it’s one we are trying to tackle by forging an approach that recognises our responsibility to each other, and makes mental illness an everyday concern for all of us. This includes offering mental health awareness training for people managers, our colleague day focused on mental health and wellbeing later this year and launching mental health first aiders – we are aiming to have at least one mental health first aider on every floor of every building.

This is also another opportunity to raise both the importance of open and honest conversations and the importance of making time for colleagues around you in the workplace. Work can have a positive or negative effect on mental health and wellbeing, and it matters to me, and all of Direct Line Group’s leadership team that we can to be a place where everyone can be themselves and feel supported.

We’re not all the way yet but we’re serious about getting better, and the great news is that everyone’s enthusiasm and keenness to get involved is definitely there.

I’m proud to work for a business that is trying to lay the foundations for us all to feel comfortable having open, honest conversations and sharing stories about important subjects like mental health.

About the author

Simon is responsible for leading the Group’s HR function, Internal & External Communications and Public Affairs. He is also responsible for delivering the Group’s People and CSR strategies. Simon is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

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