Janet Atkin is the Assistant Director of HR services at Cambridgeshire County Council and we have been working with her and her team at the council for the last couple of years.

We were fortunate to interview Janet at the end of 2021 to understand Cambridgeshire County Council’s experience of working with us over the last two and a half years, and through the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Mental Health Stigma and Discrimination in the Workplace

We thought we’d share the highlights here.  You can read the full interview here.

A building picture of people not coping

When asked to describe the situation at the council that led to us working with them, Janet described an increasing awareness of a building picture that people were not coping with the demands of their roles in an ever changing and increasingly pressurised environment, and that people’s mental health was compromised.

She said that whilst they had some wellbeing initiatives in place, they had come to a realisation that overall, they were responding reactively to what was a growing issue and knew that they needed to be more proactive and address the issue at the source.

A partnership approach

For them, one thing that made a difference was the partnership approach we took.  Janet says that it felt very collaborative, starting with the approach to work with the leadership team first, and to both receive the training themselves and to work strategically on co-creating their shared vision. 

She says that everyone who has had anything to do with our team say the same thing: that we are a pleasure to work with, open and approachable, flexible and responsive and clearly outcome driven. 

This makes us very proud.

Covid responsiveness

It was our responsiveness when Covid happened that Janet and her team really valued: how we adapted the training content and delivery, so that we could continue to support their people throughout the pandemic, and that even though that meant introducing some of our associates to the programme, the consistent 5-star feedback didn’t drop off, showing how knowledgeable and well trained our entire team is. 

We agree – we couldn’t be more proud of our facilitators.

Helped to limit the impact of the pandemic

When asked what the specific improvements have been, naturally, it was not easy for Janet to answer this, because of course, Covid presented a whole new set of circumstances and challenges and, in effect, the entire of the training programme changed. 

What she did say is that things would be a lot worse were it not for the consistent education and tools being available and that this work has helped limited the impact of the pandemic on their people. 

She shared that there is a general sense of it being a really positive thing for the council to have invested in this training and support, especially at a time when budgets are really tight and that managers have said that they have been grateful for being able to signpost their teams to the training and that the additional Mental Health Conversations workshops we developed especially for them, have been invaluable in enabling them to support their team more proactively.

We really enjoyed catching up with Janet and valued her feedback after what was for us, like many businesses, a period of adaptation.

We also appreciated her response to this question very much:

What would you say to a similar organisation considering working with us?”

 Janet said:  “I would say that it is genuinely one of the best investments we have ever made in our people.  The way the work has been approached, and the content and delivery itself, has led to people having more confidence that the organisation is taking the wellbeing of people seriously.  I’d also say that awareness of mental health and what we can do ourselves to minimise compromised mental health is more important now than ever before and particularly in public sector environments where the pressure to produce more with less is not going away.   Mostly, I would say: if you want to know the impact that this work could have on your organisation, spend 10 minutes talking to me – and I’ll happily tell you why working with MHW will be one of the best investments you’ll make next year”.

I don’t think we could say it any clearer than that!

Visit the HSE website for current news about mental health.

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