You won’t find it in the Wall Street Journal or any other business publication—print or online—but DTCC celebrated an important anniversary in September when our EMEA Mental Health program completed its first full year of service.
The program promotes positive mental health as being equally important as physical well-being, and it gives our employees the opportunity to help their colleagues by serving as “mental health first aiders”—providing confidential support and guidance—in the Wrexham and London sites.
This anniversary was significant for our company in several ways. Too often, the public perception about the financial services industry is that we are staid, uncaring and uninterested in our most important assets, our colleagues. It’s a stereotype that’s hard to shake—unfortunately in some companies, maybe it’s more true than not—but it’s something that DTCC is dedicated to changing.
And as we celebrate the World Health Organization's World Mental Health Day, it’s a perfect time to reaffirm our commitment to creating a supportive environment where all employees feel—in fact, know—that there is help available to them and that our company will provide it without judgment.
Cynics may wonder why we would embrace this philosophy. After all, aren’t people responsible for dealing with their own depression, addictions, anxiety disorders or phobias?
Putting aside a simple need for basic human decency, most of us spend the longest part of our adult lives at work. We are only as good as our colleagues enable us to be, and we’ve all seen examples of what happens when someone fails. Sometimes it’s a management issue, other times a colleague lacked focus and dropped the ball. Sometimes the consequences for poor performance are minor, other times much more serious. We’ve all experienced this to different degrees at some point in our careers.
But suppose we could have learned about a potential reason before that failure? Drugs or alcohol? Overwhelming family issues? Or perhaps the person sitting next to you was depressed or considering suicide?
Maybe, all they needed was a friendly ear and some support to avoid the failure entirely.
One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. It’s a topic that isn’t discussed very often in the workplace, but the time has come for that to change. Like many companies, we have a very effective Employee Assistance Program managed by our global Human Resources team. This program does outstanding work, but sometimes more is needed.
Providing that help, without stigma, is just one of the reasons I’m very proud of the achievements of our EMEA program. In the last year, 16 selected first aiders—employees who are trained by accredited professionals to recognize warning signs, listen to employees and refer them to services—have supported our colleagues in London and Wrexham who needed help for themselves, a family member or friend on matters including depression, anxiety and substance abuse. The program offers quarterly drop-in sessions for employees to build relationships and gather information. We also created a “well-being wall” to make educational mental health information readily available, and we have offered early intervention and educational training programs for managers in those sites as well as many of our offices globally.
There are many reasons we launched this initiative. One of the key drivers was that a few years ago, we observed an increase in the number of sick days in EMEA as some employees struggled with stress and anxiety. We dug into the issue and recognized that we needed a more flexible and compassionate approach to managing mental health-related attendance issues.
Some firms might have just continued to ignore the issue and simply replaced a struggling person with a new employee, but we recognized that we needed a cultural change and took the steps to make a difference.
The timing of our efforts coincided with work by the British government and support from various members of the Royal Family to raise awareness about mental health issues in schools and the workplace. Work-related stress and anxiety are the leading causes for ill health and sickness absence in Britain. That’s one of the reasons why we signed the "Where's Your Head At?" workplace petition, along with more than 600 other firms in the United Kingdom. The petition notes that 300,000+ people each year leave work due to mental health illness, costing employers up to £42 billion and the UK economy up to £99 billion. In total 1.4 million working people suffered from work-related ill health in 2017-2018.
The results at our EMEA offices so far are demonstrably positive. In a survey last year, 55% of employees across both sites said DTCC supported a positive mental health culture. This year, that number grew to 71%. Of those surveyed, 50% felt more engaged about working for the company and 83% felt they were in a safe and stable environment for employees affected directly or indirectly by mental health issues.
Survey results, however, only tell a part of the story. The words of our colleagues are what matter most:
“I am proud to work for a company that values and understands the importance of positive mental health and well-being.”
DTCC “has done a fantastic job of not only raising awareness of mental health but how to maintain a healthy one.”
“Great initiative and will continue to drive up employee engagement.”
Those comments and statistics would please even the most hardened cynic.
Later this month, we will take the next step as a new Employee Resource Group will begin a company-wide initiative based on three broad pillars: physical or visible health conditions, caregiving and wellness. I look forward to seeing how the ERG incorporates and shares some of the work already done by our EMEA colleagues with our team globally.
This year, suicide prevention is the focus of World Mental Health Day. The World Health Organization notes that every 40 seconds, someone takes their own life. These numbers are very disturbing, and I can’t help but think how many people can be helped by acts of caring and decency, or the types of wellness programs that we’ve launched at DTCC.
No one is immune from the crippling feelings of depression. What we can do is look to the left, and then to the right, and let our colleagues know that someone does care and that they do matter. We can take that next step for help together.