Wigan woman helps fight against workplace mental health stigma

Natasha Wild mental health first aider
Natasha Wild mental health first aider

A young Wigan woman has become one of the first mental health first aiders for a major North West company.

Natasha Wild was in the spotlight today as United Utilities joined forces with other major employers to promote national Mental Health Awareness Week.

They have come together to wear green ribbons this week in a new This is Me drive to end the stigma of talking about mental health in the workplace.

Businesses including the Beech Hill 26-year-old’s employer UU, plus Barclays, PWC, BNFL Sellafield, football clubs and mental health charities say they want to demonstrate to their employees that it is important to talk about mental health.

Environmental science graduate Natasha was only six months into her career with United Utilities when she volunteered to become one of its first ever mental health first aiders.

She is a vocal advocate of mental health support and is very active on the company’s social networking site Yammer so that colleagues know her door is always open for a phone call, a friendly chat over a cuppa or a more formal meeting.

“Sometimes people just walk up to my desk and tap me on the back and say ‘can I have a word?’. I find it really rewarding and an extra part of my job.”

Natasha is no stranger to poor mental health herself, having lived with complex post-traumatic stress disorder since early childhood. She’s been on a long journey involving a range of therapies and, although she is managing the condition well, is still on medication.

It’s this insight and a desire to help others which prompted her to take part.

“Although I don’t think it’s necessary to have gone through mental health issues to be a first aider, I think my experience can make it easier to relate to what people are going through, and it’s reassuring to them when I can say ‘I’ve been there too’.

“The #This is Me campaign is a great idea to get people to talk about mental health and not to be a taboo subject. It’s also helps people see the whole person, not just someone with a condition.”

When she’s not working as a health and safety advisor, Natasha is pretty handy at DIY around the house. She’s just bought a home close to work which needs some TLC, where she lives with her two pet cats, which she adores. She also a keen walker and reader and is a firm believer in the benefit of exercise for good mental health.

“Working in United Utilities, it’s great to know support is available within the company. I know the other mental health supporters. It’s OK to talk about it in work and people in my team know how to support me if I’m upset.”

UU chief operating officer Steve Fraser explained why the water company was involved with the campaign:

“Approximately one in four people in the UK experiences a mental health problem each year. As responsible businesses we all have an obligation to get involved and take an active interest in the wellbeing of our staff whilst creating environments where those in need can get the help and support required both now and in the future.”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said: “For responsible employers in Greater Manchester and the North West of England, this tool offers a vital opportunity to normalise conversations about mental health, build an open and supportive culture, and contribute to the health and happiness of their workforce, allowing them to thrive.”