Chris McCoy-Lavery MBE, Equality, Diversity and Wellbeing Specialist at VisitScotland
Article published 10/10/2023
World Mental Health Day (10 October) serves as a global platform for raising awareness of the importance of mental health and well-being. Mental health is integral to our overall wellbeing, dictating how we think, behave, express our feelings, and perceive the world.
Mental health issues are common, with one in four people affected globally according to the World Health Organization. World Mental Health Day raises awareness of mental health issues and provides an open platform for people to talk openly about what can be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.
We spoke with VisitScotland's Equality, Diversity and Wellbeing Specialist, Chris McCoy Lavery MBE, on how organisations, such as VisitScotland, are helping employees manage and further understand the complexities of mental health.
Tell us about your role and responsibilities at VisitScotland
My role is Equality, Diversity and Wellbeing Specialist and Head of the Mediation Partnership Team - the longest business card at VisitScotland. I ensure that the organisation is fulfilling all its duties under the Equality Act and overseeing the policies put in place that aim to support all the staff network groups.
I represent VisitScotland on the Non-Departmental Public Body Equality Forum and regularly have meetings with colleagues in the Scottish Government. I've spent a lot of time supporting HR and staff on a one-to-one basis using my occupational psychology and counselling skills.
What steps has VisitScotland taken to look after employee mental health and well-being?
At VisitScotland we have an internal staff hub, which contains a wealth of resources and helpful articles to support mental health awareness and employee wellbeing.
As an organisation we have formed some great links with Scottish charities that support employees with mental health issues. I have developed a great relationship with Support in Mind Scotland that has resulted in the provision of in-house online workshops for mental health awareness. Our current mental health strategy sessions for staff with Liz Newstead cover mindfulness, building our resilience, and managing anxiety, which have been a great success.
VisitScotland also provides all its staff members with free access to the Headspace App which contains a catalogue of interactive meditation, mindfulness and focus sessions and can be used whenever and wherever they wish.
Our Future Leaders Group includes staff members from all departments within VisitScotland and aims to give a voice to young people and staff within the organisation who wouldn't normally feed into or influence organisational initiatives and decisions. The group has been an incredible support to me since I began working from home. Each member of the Future Leaders Group has joined one of our staff network groups, both to support me and the team, but also to help their own development and understanding of staff.
Do you have any top tips for looking after our mental health and well-being?
Talking about your issues or concerns is so important for your mental health. The first step is to ask for help. It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength, and it means you value yourself; you have to tell yourself "I am worth it".
I have my own personal experiences with mental health. My mum suffered with depression, which is why I pursued counselling as a career. I also experienced severe post-natal depression for a year, and I believe all of my experiences with mental health issues has enriched my understanding of and ability to support others going through their own battles.
One of my tutors many years ago told me: "You can never say to someone who comes to you, I know how you feel, because we don't, everyone is different."
Real empathy is giving someone the time to share and to listen, they will soon tell you what they need. I have spoken with many people over the last three years and most come away from a one-to-one session feeling seen and heard, which is what almost everyone seeks when experiencing difficulties.
One of the key learning points in our mental health training sessions is about validating someone's feelings and that is the greatest gift you can give someone.
Find out more about World Mental Health Day here - https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-mental-health-day/2023