Mental health has never been more widely heard of than it is these days. The topic, old but revived by the pandemic and forced telecommuting in 2020, is essential and urgent. Mental illness has long been a taboo in society, but it is making its way from being so. It must be approached and discussed naturally and seriously. Especially in the workplace, where we spend the most time in our daily lives and where stress can be particularly high.
We are witnessing an exponential growth in mental illness in Portugal. Our country is indicated, by the study The European Countries with the Highest Risk of Burnout, from 2021, as having a significant prevalence of burnout cases - that is, as having more workers suffering, or at risk of suffering in the future, from this disease. We need to change mentalities, be aware of the signs, and, above all, act in time so that we can counteract these metrics.
The CATÓLICA-LISBON, as a reputable educational institution, can and should use its credibility in favor of fundamental causes in Portuguese society. It has done so in countless other situations, and is now doing so, with the Pact for Mental Health in the Workplace. This is the first global pact, led by the Center for Responsible Business & Leadership, for companies, designed to promote and accelerate effective action to promote mental health within organizations.
The Centre for Responsible Business & Leadership (CRBL) promoted, in the summer of 2022, the event Mental Health in the Workplace Summit 2022, which was held at the Campus of CATÓLICA-LISBON and had as its main objective, besides presenting a Research Note, prepared jointly with VdA, on the state of the art of mental health in work environments, and promoting enlightened debate on some of the most relevant topics in this area, also had the purpose of mobilizing organizations and companies to sign a Pact for Mental Health, which was signed as of November 8, 2022 (date on which the possibility of its digital subscription was officially launched, at the event that launched the Pact and that took place in the Fundação Oriente auditorium) and included all the companies and organizations that wanted to be part of it and that were joining the movement.
CATÓLICA-LISBON is not alone on this path, having as a partner in this pact MindAlliance Portugal, a non-profit organization that seeks to transform the existing culture in work environments, by initiative and with the active involvement of leaders, to promote the mental health of their employees. Through the partnership with this organization, organizations that are part of the Pact for Mental Health in the Workplace are automatically part of a global Pledge (the Global Business Collaboration for Better Workplace), with similar outlines.
The CRBL, which is now four years old, has had its objectives and purpose very clear from the start: they wanted to launch systemic collaboration lines in some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), having launched, about two years ago, the Water Pact, under which much research and conferences have been held, and, more recently, promoting Mental Health in work environments, thus acting in axes that they consider of maximum relevance to the corporate community.
After several emails exchanged and a lot of communication between all the company representatives that wanted to be part of this pact, it was mid-February 2023 that the first Advisory Board took place, which was attended by almost all the companies that signed the commitment.
After each of the company representatives introduced themselves and the ice was "broken", Professor Frederico Fezas Vital, the pact's Executive Director and moderator of this meeting, started by presenting the meeting's agenda, always in an open dialogue of sharing between all participating members.
Which companies have joined this pact?
Joining the Mental Health Pact is a commitment that companies will work together by promoting lines of research that can make sense, as well as sharing knowledge and best practices, starting or continuing to implement concrete actions in their organizations to promote the health and well-being of their employees.
Among the members of the pact, we find the following 26 companies:
- Abreu Advogados
- Grupos Ageas Portugal
- Águas de Portugal
- Critical Software
- Fidelidade (Multicare)
- Grupo Bel
- Novo Banco
- The Square
- Vieira de Almeida
Who is on the Steering Committee?
The Steering Committee will consist of the CRBL Executive Board, the MindAlliance Portugal representative and five Covenant member company representatives (who, this year, were invited by the CRBL and, in the following years, will be elected, on a rotating basis, by all Covenant members. The main objective of the Advisory Board) is precisely to support the activation, orientation, and promotion of the Working Groups, in which all companies that are members of the Pact will be represented and that will create action plans in all 5 commitments of the Pact, as follows:
1. Develop and present action plans to support good mental health in organizations, the group leader of which will be AGEAS.
2. Promote a corporate culture of openness around mental health, working to eliminate stigma, with the active involvement of leadership and whose project owner will be EDP.
3. Empower all employees to manage and prioritize their own mental health and support each other, with the group leader being Santander.
4. Refer employees to mental health tools and support they need and whose leader will be BP.
5. Regularly measure the impact of mental health initiatives within companies, led by VdA.
In addition, the Steering Committee also has the following functions:
- Develop the Annual Activity and Communication Plan.
- Be actively involved in the Covenant's main initiatives.
What activities will be developed by the Pact?
There will be four types of activities that will be the center of the Pact's intervention:
- Research - Open lines of research in topics considered relevant.
- Educational content production - develop educational, open, or custom programs.
- The so-called 3 AAAs:
Aggregation - bringing together organizations that are part of the Pact on a regular basis, but also promoting intersection with other entities, groups, or initiatives that promote the same topic.
Acceleration - promoting collaboration between different entities for systemic change, developing educational content, or creating social innovation opportunities for companies.
Awareness - Disseminating initiatives, cases, studies, and other matters that contribute to raising awareness, mobilizing people and organizations, and eliminating stigma about this issue.
After all this background and explanation of next steps, the group shared some experiences or difficulties they have felt in this area, and all the companies were very excited to be part of something that, in fact, can make a difference and positively impact hundreds of people and employees.
The expectation of the Pact's Executive Director, Professor Frederico Fezas Vital, is that "the Pact's Board will be able to actively involve this dynamic and motivated group of organizations so that the results obtained in all activities developed can be effective, measurable and evident for all. We are fully aware that only in this way will we achieve the levels of adherence necessary for this movement to reach its full potential. And we are convinced that we have the competence and capacity to make this happen. Now we need more organizations to join - our goal is to reach 100 organizations later this year - so that the impact can be even much greater."
In the end, a new challenge was also launched to the companies already members of the Pact: together, we make a difference, so each company takes home the challenge of bringing more companies to the Pact, raising awareness of the importance that this theme has - and increasingly will have - in the corporate world.
It is the responsibility of CATÓLICA-LISBON, with this pact, to create awareness among Portuguese companies about the topic, to transfer knowledge in order to contribute to the consolidation of the theme, and to produce academic articles that are relevant and allow to follow the evolution of this theme.
It is in the hands of the leaders to change mentalities and break the exponential increase of mental illness cases in Portugal.
Interested organizations who wish to sign up can do so by filling in a simple form (at this link) and paying a symbolic annual contribution of 1,000 €.
Any questions about the Pact for Mental Health in Workplaces can be asked by sending an email to the Pact's Executive Director - Professor Frederico Fezas Vital (firstname.lastname@example.org).