About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Mental health: Let’s move it from the invisible

Mental health is often invisible - remaining a hidden battle for many people. Although you might not realise it, statistics suggest that you almost certainly have people in your life who either have experienced, or are experiencing mental health problems.

One in four people will experience a mental health problem each year; 15% of people at work have symptoms of an existing mental health condition. The struggle is common.

This is a big deal for individuals because our state of mental wellness affects our ability to be our best selves. This is also a big deal for business as mental ill-health costs business money, with the cost to the economy of poor mental health estimated to be £9bn.

Thankfully, we are seeing a new wave of innovation emerging which is embracing this problem.

Nesta is supporting mental health innovators

Nesta, as an Innovation Foundation, places much focus on social change and innovation, working on a number of programmes that explore how mental health can be better supported.

Through our Inclusive Economy Partnership programme we are supporting a number of grant winners who provide practical tools to support improved mental wellbeing in the workplace for employees. These include Thrive Therapeutic Software Limited, a mobile app combining interventions to improve resilience and enable users to self-manage mild anxiety and depression, and This is Me, a campaign to create mentally healthy workplaces.

Back in February we hosted Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, to share findings of the landmark Farmer/Stevenson Thriving at Work report. This crucial piece, commissioned by government, underlines how and why the workplace must now work to improve mental health of all employees and details six “mental health core standards” to support and guide employers to nourish mental wellness at work.

But we all could be doing more

However, we at Nesta have been uncharacteristically behind the curve when it comes to deliberately developing our own mentally healthy workplace.

We are now taking steps to ensure we are practicing our values internally as well as externally. Our action plan is varied and long term: we will normalise conversation of mental wellbeing. Amongst many actions to be trialled, we've started with mental health awareness training for all employees from senior leadership to interns. We’ve joined others and committed through our Time to Change pledge.

Mental Health First Aiders

Through our Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, Nesta will have over 30 Mental Health First Aiders trained by June this year. This is Nesta’s small but important contribution to Public Health England's One Million Mental Health First Aiders campaign. It’s been a great kick off with feedback from our Mental Health First Aiders being overwhelmingly positive.

  • “We all have mental health, mental health is mental wellbeing. Our role as MHFA’s is to be available in moments of crisis, but also to promote a positive narrative around mental wellbeing.”
  • “Every struggle is relative, so we must create space and time for healing. The workplace is an unconventional vehicle for this, but a great opportunity to use our empathy, drive and zest for innovation to trial new approaches and create acceptance and higher wellbeing.”

So, as an organisation on the start of its journey, we have key learnings from our first cohorts of Mental Health First Aiders we'd like to share:

  • to practice active listening
  • to practice open questioning
  • to observe without assumption
  • to remove judgement - every person's perception is their own
  • to give value to the space created by only listening
  • and, a tough one for our innovators, to not jump into solutions mode

What's crucial here is that these are skills that need repetitive training, and so we hope to encourage your employer on this journey too.

With Mental Health Awareness Week almost upon us, now is the time to hold space for acceptance and embrace the continuum of mental health - allowing employees to thrive. Why wait?

  • If you’re feeling excited to make change, take action now and suggest your organisation to sign up to the Time To Change pledge here
  • If you would like more information about Nesta’s journey to support better employee mental health please reach out to [email protected]
  • If you would like to know more about the innovators Nesta is supporting in this space email [email protected]


Kate Sutton

Kate Sutton

Kate Sutton

Head of Corporate Social Innovation

Kate was responsible for managing Nesta's Corporate Social Innovation and Inclusive Growth work

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Rosalinda Baker

Rosalinda Baker

Rosalinda Baker

Executive Research Assistant

Rosalinda sat in the CEO team as Executive Research Assistant where she explored whatever is front of mind for Geoff Mulgan - researching, evidence gathering & design thinking.

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Glen Walker

Glen Walker

Glen Walker

Director of People & Organisational Development

Glen was responsible for the overall day to day operation of the People Team, in addition to setting its strategic direction to enable delivery of Nesta’s organisational strategy.

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