British American Tobacco - Mental health focus: Jo’s journey

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Jo Vezey

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10 October 2019

Mental health focus: Jo’s journey

On World Mental Health Day, we chat with one of our employees, Jo, about our UK initiative, Healthy Minds. Here, Jo talks about her role as a Healthy Minds Champion at BAT and opens up about her own mental health journey.

Jo joined BAT in 2007 during a difficult time in her personal life, which involved trying to balance her career, raising two children as a single parent and caring for her sick mother.

And when her mother died, Jo admits that she tried to carry on as normal.

She takes up the story: “When mum’s brave battle finally ended, I carried on pushing myself, arranging charity concerts for the hospice that took such good care of her and got to the point where my friends started calling me ‘superwoman’ – I foolishly believed them.

“I’d always been confident that whatever challenges life threw at me. I’d simply deal with them and keep smiling.  I couldn’t have been more naïve.”

Following advice from her manager, Jo sought help from her in-office Occupational Health department and was signed off from work and referred for treatment via her employee health cover.

Jo said: “I wasn’t convinced the treatment would help, but talking through my fears, anxieties and emotions, in confidence, allowed me to order my thoughts and make decisions about my recovery.

“Returning to work was then a worry in itself; not knowing how people would react to my experience and wondering if it would limit my career options. Thankfully, everyone at BAT was great and I didn’t need to worry on either count.”

Having returned to work, Jo became committed to helping others suffering from mental health issues. Jo now volunteers as the leader of our Healthy Minds Champions initiative in the UK, providing support to our employees during some of the toughest times in their lives. 

“My own experiences have given me the drive to stand up and talk about mental health to help others who may be struggling to feel less isolated and to seek the support they deserve”, she says.

“Having Healthy Minds Champions in the workplace gives those struggling an option to seek assistance confidentially and talk through their worries without judgement.  Our Healthy Minds Champions are trained to listen and signpost their colleagues to professional support so they can begin their journey to wellness again.”

She adds: “Taking care of our mental health should be a part of our normal daily routine, in the same way as we take care of our physical health. The good news is, there are many things we can do to maintain good mental health.”