Opening minds about mental health at work


Opening minds about mental health at work

Prospect members and leaders at the Environment Agency are showing the way on promoting and supporting positive mental health at work

The agency topped the board as an employer and Prospect member, Neil Longden, won the line manager award at mental health charity Mind’s workplace well-being index awards for 2017-18.

The index benchmarks best policy and practice, celebrates the good work employers are doing to promote and support positive mental health and provides recommendations on areas where there is room to improve.

Neil’s award was recognition for championing and promoting good mental health at work, particularly when it comes to supporting colleagues he’s responsible for line managing.

 Neil is a flood and coastal risk manager for Yorkshire north and has worked for the Environment Agency since 2004. He was nominated by one of his direct reports, Chris.

Chris, said: “The example Neil sets around putting staff well-being first sends a powerful message to everyone that nothing is more important than our mental health.”

The EA has set up a network by staff, for staff where people can speak openly, connect and be signposted to helpful resources.

Awareness-raising and special training is also available to help staff and line managers spot the warning signs and know where to find support.

Neil said: “I am open and honest which builds a trusting relationship. Chris came to me struggling with

 some challenges in his life. It was clear he wasn’t himself and I listened. I asked him what support he needed and tried to make sure that it was put in place.

“I continued to ask ‘How are you?’ and kept listening. I made sure Chris knew it was OK to talk to me at any time.

 “In the Environment Agency we are focused on work being a life enhancing experience, and our network groups such as respect at work, well-being, cancer support and mental health provide help to all our staff.

“Our senior managers live and breathe this culture and within a day of being notified about this award I had a phone call from James Bevan our chief exec congratulating me, and a note from our chair, Emma Howard-Boyd. This shows how firmly they believe in making a difference to people,” he added.

Neil said he was extremely honoured to receive the award. “It’s a humbling experience to know you have had such an impact on someone’s life.

“Being a supportive manager is the right thing to do, but it should be normal.

“While I did stuff that instinctively felt right, I have become more aware of the challenges people face daily and the fantastic work Mind does and their Twitter feed is incredible.

 “The real heroes are those who make the small steps each day in the fight with their illness,” he concluded.

Watch a short video featuring the Environment Agency.


“A healthy workforce means a more productive workforce. And an inclusive culture makes work more life-enhancing.”

 James Bevan, Environment Agency chief executive


“I’ve worked on the mental health network now for over five years so there’s myself and six other co-leads. We’ve gone from a membership of something like 450 to over 900.”

Michelle Gallagher


“For me, I think the biggest positive change is the change in culture across the organisation. It’s much

more acceptable to talk about mental health issues.”

Paul Slater