How Scottish Natural Heritage focuses on mental wellbeing

How did you mark World Mental Health Day last week? Today I have a guest post for you by Martin Stubbs-Partridge who is here to share what his organisation has done and how they’re continuing to focus on mental wellbeing.

I welcome this approach. Mental health should be a year-long conversation, not just a one day event. I love the mindset displayed here of “being brave out loud” – what a positive and affirming way to communicate with employees.

I spotted what they were doing online and invited Martin to come and write for the All Things IC blog. I’m delighted he accepted my invitation, I’ll  hand you over to Martin (pictured below), who will tell you more…

How Scottish Natural Heritage focuses on mental wellbeing

I’m the internal communications lead for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and work alongside a small team managing the internal channels including the intranet, which we won an award from Step Two Designs for in 2017. But with the world of IC, tech, user needs and business expectations constantly evolving we’re already planning our next iterations along the internal communications journey.

Like many people in internal communications I sort of fell into it. Originally from a retail background I joined SNH in 2007 as the Customer Relations Officer. One thing led to another and my passions for customer focus, insight gathering, project management and digital improvement landed me in internal communications.

It continues to be a steep and (mainly!) enjoyable learning curve. I admit to now being an intranet/digital workplace geek and particularly enjoy networking with fellow practitioners and partners. #DEX is the future!

Before I share some of the work we’ve been doing at SNH to raise awareness of mental wellbeing in our workplaces, I thought I’d set the scene in Scotland with a focus on young people – the focus of this year’s World Mental Health Day.

Early intervention

By the time they’re 16, roughly three children in every classroom in Scotland will have experienced a mental health problem.

In recent years there have been dramatic increases in young people reporting psychological health complaints – feeling low, irritable, nervous, dizzy, and having sleep difficulties.

In this, the Year of Young People, SNH is playing its part to tackle the trend. Getting active in nature can boost physical and mental wellbeing. Increasingly, we are also understanding the value of ‘mindfulness’ – of stopping and taking notice of your surroundings – whether that’s watching boats on the Clyde, listening to swifts chatter overheard on a summer evening or even just ‘cloud watching’.

Those who live in less affluent circumstances can be more at risk of developing mental health problems. That’s why we’re currently channelling £37.5m of investment through a Green Infrastructure Fund to deliver projects across Scotland which improve or create urban green space close to areas of multiple deprivation.

We’ve also been working with Young Scot and young women to create the Freshspace animations. The animations have been designed to inspire and encourage other young women to get outside and enjoy all of the benefits that Scotland’s green spaces offer for their health and wellbeing.

Mental health charity SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) plays a key role in raising awareness of mental health problems in Scotland and has worked in partnership with us, notably at its Redhall Walled Garden project in south Edinburgh.

Our own workplaces

But what about looking after ourselves at work? We all know our workplaces are busy, pressured and often stressful places, and for some people a catalyst for mental wellbeing issues.

So here are some of the things we’ve been up to over the last year in the lead up to World Mental Health Day.

Our CEO, Francesca Osowska, got on her bike to raise awareness of mental wellbeing raising over £1,000 for SAMHalong the way. Now I should mention that Francesca is a keen road cyclist. Very keen!

Following some “egging on” at our all staff conference last year she decided to cycle 1,300 miles around Scotland visiting 39 offices and sites we manage, meeting partners, stakeholders and colleagues to see the work they’re doing to connect people and nature.

She began her journey on 8 March and completed the feat on Friday 12 October 2018 taking 32 days over seven separate legs. The final leg started in Lerwick (Shetland) and finished at our headquarters in Inverness.

Plot that route in Google maps and admire! At the finish we had a party; partner stalls, free lunch, music and Pony Axle S rides – designed to help people in wheelchairs enjoy nature – for pupils from Drummond School.

It’s been an inspiring campaign to be part of. Watch an overview video of her amazing achievement.

Where it all began
I mentioned the staff conference. It’s where things all began. One of our senior managers, John Uttley, ran a mindfulness session during lunch.

Away from work John is a mental health champion. He has encouraged colleagues to be brave out-loud and share their experiences via a “Thriving forum” set up on the intranet. Some of the things people have shared via the forum have left me with tears rolling down my face.

Our colleagues in HR have worked tirelessly to raise awareness and foster a culture of non-stigmatism.

The mindfulness sessions started at the conference have carried on alongside: yoga, step count challenge, love to ride, and other lunchtime outdoor activities at local offices.

There are clear links between active working and healthy working lives. Our Transforming the Workplace programme is rolling out better IT kit and office environments. Increasing flexible working and reducing office and corporate frustrations all contribute to a happier workforce.

The last thing I’d like to share isn’t specifically to do with mental wellbeing but’s it’s become another place where people can share their concerns and feel safe – The Women’s Network. Set up by a small group of colleagues the network has turned into a powerful movement. And it’s not just for women. I’m also a member!

So what does the future bring?

Mental wellbeing isn’t something that starts and stops, so we won’t either.

Helping people to make simpler connections and work more easily is top of our transformation agenda. We are trying to encourage a culture where staff lead the way with ideas and, because we are multi-site, we need that local buy in.

If you’d like to raise awareness of the power connecting people and nature can have on mental wellbeing, we’d love you to join us by using the hashtag: #ConnectingPeopleAndNature.

Thank you Martin.

What do you think of what you’ve read?

As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC. You can find Martin @MartinSP16.

Further reading about mental health on the All Things IC blog:

Thank you for stopping by,


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