World Mental Health Day: Insights from the Scottish HR Leadership Group Conference 2023


On this World Mental Health Day, we take a moment to revisit an event we delivered this year on the role of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. The Scottish HR Leadership Group (SHRLG), supported by Alix Meekison and Jaclyn Needham from FWB, welcomed delegates to their first half-day conference on 'Mental Health and HR: Supporting Healthy Minds and Cultures'. The conference was held in partnership with the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), Scotland's leading mental health charity dedicated to providing services to communities nationwide and advocating for positive social change.

This event was a valuable opportunity for HR and business leaders seeking knowledge and insights into effective strategies for promoting mental health and wellbeing within their organisations. It was a testament to the growing awareness of the significance of mental health in our professional lives, and a platform to discuss the critical aspects of mental health policy and best practices. The agenda encompassed a diverse range of topics, including mental health and employment law, the development of wellbeing strategies for organisations, a panel discussion focussed on wellbeing in the evolving landscape of hybrid working.

The conference began with Burness Paull's Mandy Laurie and Morag Hutchison who shared their insights on mental health policies and best practices, setting the scene for a day filled of meaningful discussions. NatWest's Sharon Midwinter shared her approach to delivering a colleague-centred and data-led wellbeing strategy, leaving attendees with practical takeaways they could implement in their daily work routines. It understood the importance of prioritising the wellbeing of colleagues in organisational strategies.

A panel discussion followed, which addressed pressing issues such as burnout and resilience, highlighting the greater need to support colleagues during their times of needs. The panel boasted an esteemed panel of experts – Mandy Laurie, Head of Employment Division at Burness Paull, Sharon Midwinter, Wellbeing and Benefits Lead at NatWest, Jill Armitt, Head of HR at Walkers Shortbread Ltd, Ailsa Sutherland, Director at FWB, Emma Mamo, Assistant Director of Workplace & Business Development at SAMH, and Shirley Campbell, Chief People Officer at Scottish Water, who shared their vast experience and invaluable insights. The conversations spanned practical solutions tailored to different industries and emphasised the continuous need for learning about mental health, wellbeing, and the dynamics of hybrid working to support our business effectively.

A standout moment was when Scottish Ballet led attendees through an invigorating exercise session during the break. As participants returned to their seats, they were filled with renewed energy, ready for the remainder of the days programme.

The event also recognised the significant contributions of the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH). Emma Mamo from SAMH, steered the afternoon breakout sessions, providing attendees with numerous golden nuggets of knowledge to carry forward in their professional journeys. The conference successfully raised £2,750 from ticket sales to support SAMH's vital work.

The conference concluded on a poignant note, reminding everyone that we all have mental health, and we all deserve to be well. This highlight of the day was the presence of Clarke Carlisle, a former Premier League defender and Chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association from 2010 to 2013. Clarke, known for his candidness about his personal struggles with mental health, and his wife Carrie, served as the keynote speakers for the final session of the day. Their willingness to share their lived experiences added a profound and relatable dimension to the event, emphasising the human dimensions behind the policies and teams we support in our professional roles, which left a lasting impact on all attendees.

In addition to the informative sessions, the conference provided ample opportunities for networking, peer-to-peer learning, and collaboration within the HR community. Participants could connect with like-minded professionals, share insights, and strengthen their collective commitment to fostering mental well-being in the workplace.

As we reflect on this past event and share these insights on World Mental Health Day, we acknowledge the importance of such gatherings in raising awareness and driving meaningful change. The ‘Mental Health and HR’ conference served as a platform for professionals to come together, learn, and unite in their mission to create healthier, more supportive workplaces.

We celebrate the dedication of SHRLG, SAMH, and all the speakers and attendees who made this event a success. The discussions and insights shared during this event serve as a lasting reminder of the importance of prioritising mental health and wellbeing in the workplace -it is essential for individual and collective success. As we commemorate World Mental Health Day, let us remember to be well and continue the crucial work of nurturing health minds and cultures in our organisations, not just today but every day.

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