The Covid pandemic was a stress test for mental health support at Magenta Security. Our security officers were on the frontlines as the world around them shut down and the wellbeing of themselves and their loved ones was under threat. This moment of shared hardship was an opportunity for us to help each other relieve the pressure on our mental health through open, honest conversation and a promise that support is always available.
Mental health has always been taken seriously at Magenta Security, but the pandemic was a challenge we had not encountered before: a sustained negative event that puts additional pressure on mental health for many months. This was immediately followed by the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, which has replaced pandemic stress with financial stress, with no room for relief in between. What began for us as an emergency response to a mental health crisis has become the new normal.
In such an unpredictable world, we must ensure that our security officers and support staff — who are so vital to the safe functioning of our economy — know that they can rely on their employers to give them the help and resources they need to look after their mental health.
Here are some of the steps Magenta Security is taking within our organisation — and in the wider security industry — to ensure that our mental health support is prepared for the challenges ahead.
Speaking to someone about issues affecting mental health is one of the simplest and most effective ways to ease pressure and discover support. In England, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year, so nearly everyone will have experience and sympathy to offer, and we encourage staff to reach out whenever they feel overwhelmed.
The ethnic diversity of our workforce comes with its own challenges when providing mental health support. Speaking from experience, BAME men — who make up a large proportion of our workforce — are both less likely to open up about their mental health issues due to cultural stigma, as well as being more likely to encounter barriers when trying to access support.
For the BAME men of Magenta Security, and anyone else reluctant to seek help, we encourage them to speak to their most direct colleagues, who they often feel more comfortable opening up to due to their shared experiences. What we never want is for anyone to feel isolated, so we regularly reassure staff that we will always respond with kindness and understanding if they come forward about their mental health challenges.
The security industry is notorious for long shifts and low pay, compounding mental health issues by depriving security officers from the free time they need to recoup and connect with loved ones, and adding to the mounting financial pressures of a slowing economy.
No company can claim to be committed to mental health support if it doesn’t address these issues. We work closely with our security officers to ensure their shifts are fitted around other commitments in their lives and keep the sites they attend close to home whenever possible to reduce commuting time.
We use the London living wage as a baseline for pay with additional rewards for long term and outstanding employees, with extensive training programs offered to help staff progress in their careers. This commitment to fair pay and meaningful progression has resulted in a turnover of just 11%, far below the industry average of 30%.
Fulfilling our commitment to supporting the mental wellbeing of our staff includes reaching out to external organisations for training and accreditation, which will be a major push for Magenta Security in 2023.
We are in the process of joining the Mental Health Charter, an organisation that audits a company’s mental health policies, provides guidance on where improvements can be made, and offers training in mental health first aid to improve the internal support provided to our employees.
Magenta Security is also involved in Security Minds Matter, a new campaign to improve the mental health and wellbeing of security professionals, especially those on the frontline. The campaign is supported by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) and will engage with industry stakeholders and mental health professionals to deliver projects with tangible outcomes.
Finally, I will be using my position on the advisory board of IFPO to advocate for greater support and awareness for mental health and wellbeing in the security industry. We owe it to the people who give their time and energy to look after others to look after them as well. If we don’t, the industry will never attract and retain the talent it needs.
Abbey Petkar, MD
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