Interview with Leanne Pendreigh, passionate about Mental Health in the Workplace
Duty Manager, Leanne Pendreigh, tells us about her motivation and efforts to improve awareness of mental health at work
Leanne Pendreigh is a Duty Manager at the Wellcome Genome Campus Conference Centre and part of the Elior team (our catering and front of house partner). Over the last few months, she has dedicated a lot of spare time and energy to improving awareness of mental health at work, a labour of love that has attracted praise from her colleagues and across the wider Wellcome Genome Campus.
We spoke to Leanne to find out more about her motivation and efforts.
Q: It’s something you must be passionate about to have volunteered to take this on of your own accord. What inspired you to do this?
A: As a long-term sufferer of various mental health issues myself, I’d never felt comfortable talking about it at work due to the old fashioned ‘leave your problems at the door’ way of thinking. After taking a day off work due to my mental health, something clicked and I decided that I wanted to do what I could to change the perception that people have of mental health in the workplace. We spend a significant amount of our time with our colleagues and I know from experience that suppressing how you really feel only makes the situation worse, so my aim is to create an environment where it’s okay to talk and it’s okay to be yourself.
Q: You have created some great displays around different areas of mental health in staff corridors. Could you tell us a bit about these and any other initiatives you have introduced?
A: Within Elior, there are various resources available to staff but I just felt that there needed to be more information displayed where everyone has access to it. I found out about the resources available to me through Elior because I asked about them, but I know that some people would find that a very difficult and uncomfortable question to ask. The aim of the display was to give staff as much information as possible in a way that meant it was easily accessible and could be accessed anonymously at any time. There is still more that I would ultimately like to achieve and I am currently working on some activities and educational content that I can then incorporate into our regular team days or potential workshops.
Q: How have staff reacted and have you felt the impact of your work on your colleagues?
A: Initially I did receive a couple of negative reactions but I understand that people have their own opinions and may have been wary of what I was doing and why. However, feedback soon changed and overall I’ve had an amazing response. Many people have shared their stories and personal experiences of mental health with me and it has also been quite surprising to learn just how many people within my workplace can relate to mental health. It has definitely proved that you never truly know what someone may be hiding behind a smile and I am very appreciative of all the support I’ve received!
Q: How did you go about creating your display?
Firstly I thought about what I wanted the display to achieve. I wanted it to be a source of information about different areas of mental health that I felt needed to be at the forefront based on my own personal experiences, as well as discussions that I’d had with others at work about their own experiences. It’s also a sign-posting tool to help people access further support. I wanted it to give a positive message, to catch people’s eye and also be appealing to read; so I made it colourful and included motivational phrases that are relevant to the area we work in and people who work here. For the concept to be meaningful to the people who will be accessing it and making use of the resources, it needs to be tailored to them.
Q: What would you say to people who would like to do the same at their place of work?
A: I would most definitely say DO IT! Even in the last year or so, mental health has become a much more openly discussed topic within the media which I feel has driven people to try and make changes for the better. From a personal point of view, it has without a doubt helped me to become more confident within myself, allowed me to open up about how I’m really feeling without the fear of judgement and also helped me to realise that I don’t have to face this all on my own, there is support available and there is always somebody else who understands exactly what you’re going through.
Many thanks to Leanne for sharing this with us. We’re very much behind you in breaking the stigma around mental health.
World Mental Health Day is recognised by the World Health Organisation on 10th October every year.