To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, retailTRUST CEO Chris Brook-Carter says ensuring good mental health for everyone who works in retail has never been more important
Next week (10-16 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week. Organised by Mental Health Foundation, it’s an important opportunity for all of us to get involved in the conversation around mental health, take stock and truly understand how we can achieve good mental health for ourselves, our employees and our sector.
The mental health of retail workers has been impacted enormously during the pandemic, and this was reflected in WorkL’s Happiness Survey of more than 100,000 UK workers in January 2021, which gave retail an average happiness rating of 66%. The happiest sector to work in is tech, apparently, which scored 77%. Even though Hackett, Browns and Moonpig (which topped the retailer chart) had a rating of 93%, no retailers made it into the top 200 (Hackett was placed at 215).
At first glance, this doesn’t seem to reflect well. Consider the impact the pandemic has had on retail compared to technology (which has thrived over the past year), and these figures are not so surprising. Four million people work in British retail, and the past 14 months have been really tough for every one of them.
“The health and wellbeing of the people that work for us is critical to the success of our organisations” – Jo Walmsley, director of people capability, John Lewis Partnership
Those working for essential and online retailers – whether on the shopfloor, in our warehouses or driving delivery vans – have gone above and beyond to serve the nation, despite facing a significant and saddening increase in incidents of racial, verbal and physical abuse from customers. And those working in non-essential retail have been faced with unsettling uncertainty and financial hardship as they navigated three lockdowns, furloughs, redundancy threats, job losses and store closures.
Hope, health and happiness for everyone
At retailTRUST, our mission is simple: to provide hope, health and happiness for everyone working in retail. It’s what we’ve been doing since 1832. And we do it by providing emotional, physical, vocational and financial support to anyone over of the age of 16 who works in the retail sector.
As a charity we have responded to an incredible demand for our services since the start of the pandemic: in the year to 7 April 2021, we paid out more than £840,000 in financial aid to help people remain in their own homes, feed their families or make essential hospital visits – an increase of 163%.
Helping Libby escape domestic abuse
One colleague whose mental health we have supported is small business owner Libby Mata Harii. Libby was diagnosed with OCD, depression, anxiety and PTSD and was unable to work. By giving Libby a non-repayable grant to pay her heating bill through the winter, we helped her escape domestic abuse and keep her five young children safe.
“I had to stop work in August 2020 due to the extreme mental health issues,” she said. “I had had psychotic episodes, suicidal thoughts and a breakdown. retailTRUST helped me pay the heating bill. Our windows are old and broken and we were all freezing.
“Not only did it lift the weight of a big financial burden and meant we could turn our heating on and gave me hope, and a feeling of knowing I deserve help, I deserve support and I deserve money. These are all things that years of abuse made me feel I was undeserving of. The help from retailTRUST not only helped us practically, it helped me heal psychologically as well.”
The retailTRUST’s Championing the Health of Retail event takes place online from 10-11 May and is free to attend. Speakers include Nick Beighton, Helen Dickinson, David Potts and Alastair Campbell. Simply register at www.retailtrust.org.uk/