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Citywire South East: mental health - 'the last great taboo'

In light of Mental Health Awareness Week, we look back at coverage from the mental health panel at our recent South East event in Hampshire.

‘Mental health is the last great taboo in the City’, according to Paul Feeney, Quilter’s chief executive officer.

Speaking at Citywire’s South East event, Feeney (pictured) discussed how he had launched a mental health initiative at his firm called Thrive.

He revealed that the programme has helped him with his own personal challenges with mental health, adding that he is currently going through a divorce process that is both ‘stressful and sad’.

In his keynote speech, Feeney told his story of an upbringing that had involved domestic abuse, which had lead him to develop post-traumatic stress disorder in later life.

Feeney said that having a good support network in the workplace was crucial to a company being competitive. ‘It’s not philanthropy, it’s good business’, he said.

Feeney was keen to stress that employees do not need to be overly stressed to attain good results. 

Rosanna Williams (pictured above), founder of The Secret Coach, spoke about a negative culture towards being ‘always on’. She said: ‘There seems to be something behavioural where people won’t put themselves first.’ 

Steve Nelson, consulting director at asset management and platforms consultancy, The Lang Cat, talked to the panel about his struggles with mental health, and how his work colleagues responded to him taking time off: ‘If I’d had a broken arm, people would have been asking me questions all day about it. When I came back to work after a mental health issue, there was total silence.

‘We don’t have the societal framework to know how to deal with mental health.’

Nelson told attendees at the retreat that responses to panel discussions on mental health have been polarised. However, he added that the demographic of middle-aged men that is prominent among wealth managers is a crucial audience to get the message out to.

The panel also examined how technology could assist with mental health support, with apps such as Headspace being referenced.

However, Amy McKeown, a mental health and workplace stress expert, said: ‘Tech cannot replace understanding your team. You can have the best mental health policy in the world, but you need a proper HR support process in place to make it work.’

Feeney added that it was crucial to have a personal approach to mental health support, as it ‘makes more of an impact’.

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