Comedian and campaigner Ruby Wax is well known for her efforts to increase awareness of mental health issues within society at large.
Now the actor has taken her message to some of the UK’s top employers, at an event held by science-based technology company 3M.
At 3M’s UK head office, in Bracknell, Berkshire, she addressed an audience of more than 120 health and safety professionals, as part of the company’s Safety Network Live event.
In her hour-long talk, Ruby, who has a Master’s degree in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, said managers needed to be trained to spot mental health issues and help employees feel comfortable speaking openly about them.
She said: “It can be very difficult for a manager to recognise if a member of staff is mentally ill, unless he or she is trained to spot it.
“I think it’s something like 100 billion pounds are lost every year in businesses as a result of mental health issues, so it would probably be really beneficial for managers to really learn how to work with people who are dealing with mental health issues and make them feel safe, so they feel they can speak out about it without the fear of jeopardising their position in the company.
“In this day and age - good luck saying it – if you put it on your CV that you’ve got a mental illness, people worry about holding on to their job. Removing this stigma would be such an evolved thing to do for your company.”
Ruby also explained the need for businesses to treat mental health and stress as seriously as traditional safety topics that affect employees’ physical wellbeing.
She said: “If you keep the stress on stress on stress going, eventually it will burn down your immune system, and then you’re open to every disease going.”
As one method of addressing this, Ruby offered an interactive demonstration of mindfulness techniques, which she said were now being used by elite organisations such as the Marines.