` Stacey Sutton of Morgan Stanley on supporting leaders’ mental health | Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA)
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11 May 2022
by Dawn Lewis

Stacey Sutton of Morgan Stanley on supporting leaders’ mental health

It can be lonely at the top. And so ensuring leaders' mental health is supported is critical for the smooth running of an organisation

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Leaders aren’t just essential to ensuring the success and adoption of workplace mental wellbeing initiatives. Supporting their mental health is also critical to their own wellbeing and the smooth running of an organisation.

Speaking during REBA’s recent webinar on The Power of a Mentally Healthy Workforce: How Your Leaders Can Drive Cultural Change, Stacey Sutton, executive director EMEA benefits at Morgan Stanley, outlined the importance of supporting leaders’ mental health and how to make large scale change around this topic.

The mental wellbeing approach at Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley is a large financial services organisation, which has been focused on mental health and wellbeing for a number of years. It takes a three pillared approach to its mental health and wellbeing strategy, which is around prevention, awareness and access to treatment and resources. It also has a keen understanding of the importance of leadership. 

“Back in 2019, we established a mental health advisory board made up of senior leaders across our EMEA region, and owing to the success of that we actually took that model global last year,” explained Sutton. 

“We now have a global wellbeing board, which is made up of senior leadership because we acknowledge that systemic change can't be driven solely out of HR. We need to have a feedback loop between the business that encompasses all of the different elements of wellbeing, which is completely multi-faceted, and around employees’ experience through the organisation.”

Why supporting leaders’ mental health is so important

Leaders are often relied upon to help normalise workplace mental health conversations, and act as role models within a business. However, it is important to remember that leaders are not immune to poor mental health.

“As a leader you've got a dual responsibility. And it goes back to the analogy about the airplane oxygen mask, and getting your mask on before you try to support other people. So generating programmes around education and awareness, which is firmly part of our strategy, to help managers acknowledge that to perform optimally they need to be looking after themselves by generating healthy habits and routines. 

“And this is so that they can role model behaviour and encourage other people to take on this cultural shift. But also so that they can support other people, be aware, and notice what's going on for other people,” said Sutton.

How to make large scale change around mental wellbeing 

Creating change around mental wellbeing is not about introducing a whole scale shift, but rather requires small incremental changes that can be built-up to produce systematic change.

Sutton uses the example of appointing a Board to look at global wellbeing, but then going further to understand the purpose of the Board and the tangible actions that they can implement. 

“It’s bringing together, packaging up and amplifying those [mental health] messages for people, and communicating consistently around how to utilise services, for example. Ruth Pott [another webinar panellist] talked a lot about storytelling, role modelling, sharing stories. I think, actually, showing people how to do things, rather than telling people in communications, is a really important way of trying to bring things to life,” said Sutton.

Enabling leaders to not only support the mental wellbeing of their direct line reports, but to also increase their own mental resilience, is crucial for any business that wants to create a psychologically safe working environment. 

As Suttons adds: “Success in this topic is around strong culture and supporting positive mental health which is built on meaningful, tangible action.”

For more on this topic, watch the full webinar on The Power of a Mentally Healthy Workforce: How Your Leaders Can Drive Cultural Change.

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