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Talking mental health

What is it like to be a mental health champion at Deloitte

This year's Mental Health Awareness Week starts on 15 May and the theme is ‘anxiety’. Jean-Marie Delport, a senior manager in our risk advisory practice, talks to us about mental health and what motivated her to become a mental health champion.

Mental health champions

I am a senior manager in Risk Advisory at Deloitte in Bristol, and in my day-to-day role I am a climate risk modeller, helping banks understand how climate risk impacts their credit risk exposures.

I’m also a mental health champion (MHC) for the UK firm.

As an MHC, people within Deloitte can reach out to me to have a confidential conversation about work related or personal situations, or any circumstances that are affecting their mental health. The role of the champion is to be a listening ear; a first port of call to help a person think through issues, and access suggestions and advice to help formulate a plan for next steps.

Our MHCs are volunteers and I simply put my name forward. Any special training or qualifications were not a prerequisite. Most people who volunteer have their own unique experiences dealing with mental health related issues. We do receive guidance about how to deal with certain situations and we have regular touch points as a group, with inputs from mental health professionals.

Sharing experiences

I am very passionate about mental health and it’s such an important part of who we are as humans. It’s just as important as being healthy physically.

Having struggled with anxiety since a young age, I know how debilitating it can be. But equally, I know how liberating it is to overcome it! I love speaking to people about my own journey. Hearing other people’s stories have been so helpful to me in the past and therefore I would like to offer others the same support.

Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW)

I think the world and society has come a long way in terms of normalising issues with mental health. But there is still room for improvement. So, the more we speak about it, the better!

The theme for this year’s MHAW is anxiety. Anxiety is a normal emotion in us all, but sometimes it can get out of control and become a mental health problem.

For me personally, anxiety leaves me feeling overwhelmed and stressed. I am sure others experience it in different ways. But for me, my whole body feels tense and I struggle to think clearly. Exercise provides a lot of relief for me, but I had to understand the root cause. Therapy has helped me understand why I was feeling this way and I was able to understand the triggers.

I can honestly say that I have been able to overcome my anxiety, and I am now controlling it rather than it controlling me.

Support throughout the year

MHAW is just one week of the year, but support is available to people all year round.

Anyone at Deloitte can reach out to a MHC, regardless of their business unit, location or grade. The firm has a My Wellbeing portal, with a page dedicated to its mental health champions. Each MHC has written a short bio for the page, telling their own unique stories. These really help people seeking support to identify someone that they feel they can relate to. There is a wide and diverse range of MHCs, so you are very likely to find someone relatable!

I love helping others and personally find it very rewarding! It also leaves me feeling that my own struggles have been worth it whenever I am able to support someone else through my own experience.

Wellbeing programmes

One of the firm’s shared values is to ‘look after each other’ and Deloitte offers a wide range of support channels to its people. The best place to start is the My Wellbeing portal on our intranet. As well as providing info on our MHCs, it’s where our people can find a range of tools and support, such as details for an advice line, the My Wellbeing app, an overview of events, including virtual workouts and yoga classes. Deloitte also gives us free access to Headspace, a meditation and mindfulness app.

It’s okay to not be okay

I know it’s scary speaking about mental health and speaking about what you are dealing with. It’s okay to feel scared and to be struggling. I’d like to encourage anyone that would like to speak to someone to take that step. You won’t regret it! If you are looking for a sign – this is it!