Mental Health and Wellbeing: ATG's commitment and practise

Mental Health and Wellbeing: ATG’s commitment and practise

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Headspace: ATG's Grand Opera House, York staff - team lasertag during Wellness Week 2019
by Megan Conway, Group Access and Safeguarding Lead, ATG
Date Published: 07 November 2019

Positive mental health and wellbeing is something that everyone needs. With a number of factors in the theatre industry having the potential for a negative effect, including long hours, aggressive customers and the sheer mentality that ‘the show must go on’ at whatever cost, a supportive environment is essential to ensuring and positive and productive workforce.

This year’s World Mental Health Day landed on Thursday 10th October, with a theme being set by the World Federation for Mental Health of Suicide Prevention. It is fitting then, that exactly one month before, Tuesday 10th September, was World Suicide Prevention Day.

As part of a task for cohort 5 of ATG’s Leadership programme, Rising Stars, the group was asked: “How can ATG develop and maintain a workplace culture that actively promotes employee wellbeing?” With a workforce across the UK covering a range of roles, as well as in the US and Germany, this seemed like quite the task! However, through breaking it down, we realised that the most effective way to ensure this culture was to share best practise methods with our venue and office teams with a “business as usual” mentality, gradually changing the culture to encourage more open, honest conversations surrounding this topic, coinciding reminders with national/international awareness dates across the year.

To kick start our campaign, for World Suicide Prevention Day we were honoured that one of ATG’s venue leaders made the decision to share a deeply personal story about his own struggles with mental health, which ultimately led to a near suicide attempt. Fortunately this was prevented, and he was able to share his story with us, and the wider organisation, along with everything that he had learnt and advice to anyone suffering due to their mental health. This advice was somewhat simple in theory, but perhaps less so in practise: “Talk, to anyone, it doesn’t matter who, just talk, and, it will get better”.

This story was shared with everyone in ATG UK via email by a member of the venue leader’s team, with a follow up email sent by Mark Cornell, CEO. Along with the story, we were able to share helplines including The Samaritans, CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) and industry-based support such as the Theatre Helpline.

The response was incredibly supportive, and we continued to share positive stories shared by our colleagues as part of a campaign surrounding World Mental Health Day, with support and guidance from ATG’s internal Diversity Group and members of the SLT.

Monday 7th October: The Customer Experience Management Team at the Grand Opera House, York shared an initiative that they had set up to encourage an ‘open door policy’ where at certain points during the week their team could come in to discuss any concerns that they had. They also arrange regular social events, such as bowling, where any work talk is prohibited.

Tuesday 8th October: A reflection on the story shared as part of World Suicide Prevention Day, along with advice for looking after your mental health in line with the Mental Health Foundation’s guidelines: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-mental-health

Wednesday 9th October: A focus on exercise as maintaining your wellbeing, the venue team in Woking set up a ‘Wellness Week’ which included a Quiz Night, Mini Golf and Table Tennis, and a chance for staff around the theatre to get to know each other better.

Thursday 10th October: For World Mental Health Day, Mark Cornell, CEO, shared a video reminding staff of the importance of looking after their mental health and that ATG will support anyone who needs it.

Friday 11th October: Our colleagues in the US shared their recent initiatives, the first being ‘Mindful Moments’ in New York, which provides staff with an hour away from their busy schedules to learn different techniques on practicing self-care and positive mental wellbeing. The second was the Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land, where the team participated in a Beach Volleyball Tournament over the summer!

This year ATG are also providing their first “Mental Health Awareness for Managers” course this November. Watch this space..!

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The Theatre Helpline is a free and confidential 24-hour phone and email service supporting theatre professionals with any issue affecting their health and wellbeing: https://theatrehelpline.org/
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