A group of mental health champions from Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, with chairman Sir Trevor Soar (centre)

Chatham Historic Dockyard signs up for Time to Change pledge

Alex Stevens, 08.03.2019
Heritage site makes commitment to mental health of staff and volunteers
Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust (CHDT) has become the first heritage site to sign up for the Time to Change Employer Pledge, making a commitment to ensuring that employees and volunteers facing mental health problems feel supported.

The pledge aims to normalise conversations about mental health in the workplace. Signing up requires organisations to develop an action plan, which is submitted to Time to Change for approval. Time to Change provides free coaching, networking opportunities, and training for individual “employee champions”.

For CHDT, the impetus to sign up came from a concern that line managers weren’t equipped to support the growing number of volunteers with mental health problems. 

“This highlighted the need to also equip staff managers with the skills to support staff as well as volunteers,” said public relations officer Susanna Hodder. “With greater awareness comes an ability to recognise issues and an ability to feel comfortable offering support.”

The process was “simple and easy to follow”, said Hodder. CHDT now has 17 employee champions, and the working group formed to devise the initial action plan will continue to meet regularly.

“In a short period of time the focus group and its activities have successfully managed to create a more open work culture, breaking down some of the barriers surrounding talking about mental health,” said Hodder.

CHDT joins Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums on the list of employers to have made the pledge, but take up from the sector has so far been slow.

Sam Jenkins, a project leader at Museum Wellness Network, which connects museum professionals to talk about their experiences with mental health and wellbeing, said she hoped other organisations would follow CHDT’s lead.

“The sector is doing great work looking at how we can support the mental health of our visitors,” said Jenkins. “But we do tend to lag behind in terms of our own staff. Museums need to acknowledge the impact working in a constantly-changing environment can have on their employees.

“Initiatives like the mental health pledge are a tangible, visible sign that employers are committed to supporting the wellbeing of their staff and reducing the stigma around mental health. This in turn encourages openness and helps ensure no one has to struggle in silence.”

Links

Time to Change – Employer Pledge