What are ‘wellbeing champions’, and why are they so important?
In the first edition of our new ‘Champion Spotlight’ series, we explore the true power of championing mental health at work, and what this looks like at BAE Systems.
By now, you’ll have heard the phrase ‘wellbeing champion’. The idea has rocketed over the past decade, but what does it actually mean?
In short, a wellbeing champion (sometimes known as a mental health or wellness champion) is anyone responsible for promoting positive mental wellbeing within their own company.
Sometimes the role is formal and wide-ranging, sometimes not. Either way, it’s proven that wellbeing champions have a positive impact on workplace culture.
Here at Unmind, we believe these roles are crucial in driving lasting, cultural change. Towards a world – both in and out of work – where mental health is not viewed as a problem that needs fixing, but something that’s nurtured, celebrated, and understood.
It’s why we’re shining a light on some awesome champions (that just so happen to be Unmind clients) in a new blog series. ‘Champion Spotlight’ will showcase the many unique ways individual companies can break the stigma around mental health. Plus, what they’ve learned about wellbeing, and themselves, along the way.
Spotlight on: BAE Systems
Matt Bickerdike and Dom Lindsay work as a procurement contract manager and material controller, respectively, at BAE Systems.
When a workmate took their own life in 2018, Matt and Dom wanted to advance the conversation around mental health. Especially for men, who are three times more likely than women to die by suicide.
So, moved by grief for their colleague, as well as their own experiences with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and panic attacks, Matt and Dom launched a podcast: Break the Silence. The internal channel exists to raise awareness about common mental health issues, via open and honest conversations. By airing real, hard-hitting, and sometimes funny stories, Break the Silence is relatable by nature.
The podcast runs monthly, zooming in on a new theme each time – for example, autism and PTSD. Guests come from across the BAE Systems hierarchy (apprentices to directors) – a deliberate nod to the channel’s purpose: everyone has mental health, so why not talk about it?
Champion insight: what they’ve learned, in their own words
When thinking of what you can do to help, ask: ‘What would help me/us?’
“We just asked ourselves, as men in our twenties, what would help us? And we thought the biggest help is hearing from other people who have been through it. We wanted to add some humour to the podcast, while also including those really hard-hitting and impactful stories. It was important that the podcast felt unscripted so that people could really connect to it. It just makes it real.” – Matt
You don’t need to be senior to make a difference
“We’re no one special. We’re not media professionals, we’re just really passionate about having this conversation and making it accessible for people. To have created something that has gone this far and been this successful has really shocked us.” – Dom
Just start, keep it small, and be consistent. Impact will grow over time
“It took some time to get the podcast up and running – between having conversations internally, planning, and recording. This started out as something for our department and now goes out to the whole of the UK. The feedback has been really remarkable, and we now have a back-catalogue of people who want to share their stories.” – Matt
Even if it impacts just one life, it’s worth it
“It’s so amazing to see people relate to the stories that are shared on the podcast. We always thought, if it reaches and impacts just one person, that’s enough for us.” – Dom
Link up with other initiatives
“At the end of every podcast we always signpost to the wellbeing support that is available at BAE – like our EAP provider and, of course, Unmind.” – Matt
Want to learn more about how wellbeing champions can help shift the culture in your organisation? Get in touch today.