5 minutes with UNISON’s Carmen Bezzina

Alastair Gittins
3 min readMay 8, 2017

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week 8–14 May

Carmen Bezzina

What is UNISON doing for Mental Health Awareness week?

Society needs to be more open in talking about people’s experiences of mental health problems; how we can better help them and how we can help to alleviate the causes. We’re using this week to encourage members to speak out and talk to family and friends about their mental health. We’re also encouraging our members to become mental health champions — more about that later.

Why is mental health an issue for UNISON?

Mental health issues can affect anyone including those in work. Mental health problems are on the increase and very often our members are scared to come forward to talk openly with their employer. There’s a stigma attached to mental health and people have a fear of speaking out.

The deep spending cuts of the last seven years of the Conservative government have had a major impact on people’s personal and working life and a detrimental effect on many people’s mental health.

Benefit cuts have caused terrible stress for families and forced people into poverty and to rely on food banks. In public services the UK government has proudly made savage cuts to spending callously disregarding the community support services that are forced to close as a result. We’ve lost 23,700 jobs in Welsh local government services thanks to the Tories; for the staff who remain there is intolerable pressure to do more with less and keep services running. We are clear that austerity must end now.

What are we saying to employers?

We’re seeking a cultural change and for all public service employers to sign the Time to Change Wales pledge on tackling the stigma surrounding mental health and discrimination. We’re calling on employers to work with UNISON on mental health to raise awareness of the importance of talking.

We want all who those experience mental health problems to be provided with decent care and support and for employers to take effective action on the causes of workplace stress.

So, what are UNISON mental health champions?

This is a new role in UNISON Cymru/Wales. Mental health champions help support and signpost members to services for mental health. They are raising awareness and smashing the stigma in workplaces across Wales. If you are interested in becoming a UNISON mental health champion let me know c.bezzina@unison.co.uk

UNISON regional secretary Margaret Thomas with Carmen and mental health champion graduates

Is there anything else you want to say?

I want to encourage everyone to do something positive this week, talk to your friends, family and colleagues about mental health. I have made it a personal priority this week to reach out to ten friends. One call shows you care and can make all the difference to someone who could be experiencing mental health problems.