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Breaking the stigma: mental health awareness at the Insolvency Service

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Networks, People and culture

At the Insolvency Service we recognise the wellbeing of staff has a direct impact on the quality of work we do. The agency has a number of network groups to support staff to overcome difficulties they might encounter inside or outside of work.

Break the stigma

I'm Rob Thomas, and I'm a member of the steering board for the Break the Stigma (BtS) group. Our mission statement is ‘To break the stigma surrounding mental health issues by promoting awareness and providing support for all”. We try to help staff deal with mental health issues in whatever form they take.

Nobody is in any doubt that 2020 is a more challenging year than usual. One way or another, we've all struggled with the changes and uncertainty that we've had to face. We want to make it OK to sometimes not be OK and to provide support, friendship and, where applicable, point people towards more formal support and assistance.

Woman colouring in a mindfulness colouring book with a pen

Using informal sessions

Part of our efforts to make the conversation about mental health less stigmatised involves encouraging people to talk. The first step to improving your mental health is to try to understand how you feel and talking about it is a good way to do that.

The BtS group set up ‘Kindness Challenges’ earlier in the year. These are video conference calls where everyone and anyone is welcome to contribute. We provide a safe environment where people can talk openly and tell us about their experiences during the pandemic and how that has impacted their mental health, good or bad.

In these calls we discuss what they have done to help themselves or others during these tough times. The sessions are informal, and we ask attendees to contribute their own stories, techniques and tactics that have helped them that may, in turn, help others. It is hard to get quantified feedback on a qualitative exercise but the feedback we get from the calls is always positive, and our members are keen for the sessions to continue.

Realising it's OK not to be OK

Noticing and saying ‘I am not OK’ is, in my own experience, one of the most important steps to improving your own mental health. Admitting you are not OK to yourself, or to someone else, is a positive step. Once you understand that you do not feel ‘right’ you are better placed to ask for help and start to improve the way you feel.

According to the mental health charity Mind, 1 in 4 people will encounter mental health difficulties each year, while 1 in 6 will experience difficulty on a weekly basis. This means at least one person in each office will be having a tough time. BtS understand that in most cases there is not a quick fix.

Mental health can become habitual, built up by reacting the same way to the same situations, sometimes for decades. These patterns take time and effort to change. As with physical exercise, it’s not a once a year effort or even once a week, it’s an effort every day.

A panorama of trees with sunshine coming through at the edge of the wood

Togetherness and support

BtS is open to all Insolvency Service staff to join and we are conscious that not all our members may be having or have had difficulties themselves.

All our members have an interest in improving mental health and promoting wellbeing. Our group connects people who support each other and work with the Insolvency Service to embed mental welling into our culture and policies.

What we want to provide, and this is more relevant than ever, is a sense of togetherness and support which we hope helps all our members overcome and manage any troubles they might be facing.

Read more about the benefits of working for the Insolvency Service.


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  1. Comment by Guy Bailey posted on

    Really good and insightful piece. Stay safe and healthy everybody.

  2. Comment by Dave posted on

    "Togetherness and support" sums it up. Experiencing a group who are simply and genuinely looking out for their friends and colleagues has been very uplifting. Stay safe, travel well.

  3. Comment by Sally Brenton posted on

    Great blog Rob – the care and compassion of the Break the Stigma is amazing, humbling and always inspiring – thank you for being there!