Thousands sign petition calling for better mental health support at work

Anna Richardson takes a selfie by a portrait of herself at an outdoor exhibition in Regents Place in London, during the launch of the Lets Talk campaign, to encourage people to talk about mental health.
Anna Richardson takes a selfie by a portrait of herself at an outdoor exhibition in Regents Place in London, during the launch of the Lets Talk campaign, to encourage people to talk about mental health.

More than 200,000 people have signed a petition calling for mental health to be given as much importance as physical health at work.

he Where's Your Head At? campaign is demanding better support and awareness in the workplace.

Anna Richardson stands against a portrait of herself at an outdoor exhibition in Regents Place in London, during the launch of the Lets Talk campaign, to encourage people to talk about mental health.

Anna Richardson stands against a portrait of herself at an outdoor exhibition in Regents Place in London, during the launch of the Lets Talk campaign, to encourage people to talk about mental health.

This would include specially trained "mental health first aiders" who would be able to spot early symptoms, know what to say to someone who is struggling and tell them where to get support.

Countdown star Rachel Riley joined campaigners handing the petition in to Downing Street on Monday.

She said that having cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for stage fright while on Strictly Come Dancing made her realise how important mental health issues are.

"Mental health is often overlooked and people aren't talking about it a lot," she added.

"I think it resonates with everybody, one in two people suffers in some way with mental health problems.

"I had CBT while on Strictly because I had stage fright and it was the first time I thought about mental health and the fact that you can change the way you think and make yourself more comfortable by talking to someone."

Campaigner Natasha Devon said the mental health first aiders would be trained in what to say and "crucially what not to say to someone who is struggling".

"It's about giving that person a little lift," she added.

"Mental health is something that fluctuates throughout a lifetime and with more support it makes people more functional.

"More than 200,000 have signed the petition and to have that many people jump onboard with the campaign shows me that the public want this."

MP Luciana Berger is also supporting the campaign and will present the petition to Parliament.

"This campaign has secured so much support from across the country which will be very significant when it comes to garnering the support of my MP colleagues," she said.

"The petition has shown that there is an interest in the public more widely and putting forward a practical measure that can make a real difference in so many workplaces across the country."

Meanwhile, another mental health drive has also been launched, called Let's Talk and backed by Mental Health UK.

Encouraging conversation about mental health, the campaign use images showing people's most difficult thoughts written across their faces, created by Charlie Clift and lettering artist Kate Forrester.

TV presenter Anna Richardson and former Labour spin doctor and author Alastair Campbell feature in the campaign among others who have faced mental health difficulties.

Richardson said: "I am hugely passionate about raising the conversation around mental health. One in four people in the UK suffer from this illness and I really hope this campaign will continue to extend the conversation about how important good mental health is, and how urgently we need the government to pour money into mental health resources - the county's crying out for it.

"I have suffered myself, as has my family, with anxiety and depression and struggled to get the appropriate treatment, so I'm thrilled to back this cause to destigmatise any issues around mental health concerns, and open up the dialogue. Let's Talk!"

Campbell said: "On a really bad day - and it's far from every day - I think, 'I don't really want to be here'. I feel sad, but with an intensity that goes beyond feeling sad. I feel both dead and alive.

"I am conscious of being alive, awake, breathing, needing to eat - but inside I am numb. The pain is almost physical. It's not all bad - my resilience comes from my depression. It's helped me withstand a lot of pressure, from social media or wherever, and now I care about what matters and care little about what doesn't.

"I have bouts of creativity that come out of my depression".