The expansion has increased the organisation’s capabilities to deliver a digitised response to the anticipated mental health fall out from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Just a month away from its first anniversary, Manchester-based, mental health organisation, TalkOut is significantly expanding its support for the UK’s business community through the addition of highly immersive virtual reality (VR) software and the launch of a wellbeing app.

The expansion plans have been rapidly brought forward in order to meet the needs and unprecedented working conditions arising from the coronavirus outbreak.

The innovative VR offer will enable employees to enter simulated environments via a headset and monitor and manage their responses to workplace circumstances that have the potential to impact their mental health. Meanwhile, the app will promote connection among employees and will enable businesses to directly support individuals’ emotional wellbeing as well as offering counselling via a specialist chat function.

TalkOut’s new digital provision complements the company’s existing mental health training and consultancy programme but also enables it to support businesses and their employees remotely, which will help to overcome any barriers and silos caused by ongoing lockdown restrictions.

TalkOut was co-founded in 2019 by former HR director, mental health first aid instructor and Childline volunteer, Jill Mead, to provide a strong voice for mental health in the workplace. The business has proved hugely successful, growing quickly to a team of six experts qualified in clinical psychology, psychological therapy and counselling. A MenTalk2 division was also launched earlier this year with a focus on supporting industries that are predominantly male dominated in order to support more men in the workplace.

The company’s expansion will now see Jill rise to the position of CEO for the newly-created TalkOut Group, a team of 12 with plans to grow further in the coming months to meet demand, comprising TalkOut, the consultancy business, TalkOut Tech and TalkOut VR.

Jill Mead, CEO, TalkOut Group, commented: “It has never been more important that we find new, dynamic ways to support people’s mental health needs in the workplace and having a digital offer to work alongside our successful training and consultancy programme will help us to reach more organisations and more people quickly. We have a talented team of digital connection experts who understand how technology can support emotional wellbeing and the TalkOut app will not only give people a voice but enable people to feel connected and supported in a digital space.

“Greater Manchester is a global hub for digital innovation, so there is no better place to be launching this unique virtual experience, aimed at genuinely improving the wellbeing and livelihoods of the workforce.”

“Many employers were ill-equipped to address the mental health needs of their staff prior to the coronavirus pandemic and unfortunately the situation is going to be worse now. Understandably, businesses have a great deal on their plate as they try to recover from this crisis but if they don’t seriously consider the mental health requirements of their people, they will quite simply have another crisis on their hands.

“Workers have been furloughed, many have had to juggle increased workloads alongside homeschooling, others are dealing with financial worries and some may have even lost loved ones. These are all factors that can have a huge impact upon our emotional and psychological wellbeing.”

Jill continued: “I’m immensely proud to be launching this digital provision which will enable us to ensure mental health is placed on the radar of responsible employers in the North West, and across the UK, by better equipping them to support their staff even if they continue to be isolated from them.

“When we launched TalkOut last year, we set out to be the voice of mental health in the workplace and show business leaders how critical their role is to driving real change. Clearly we had no idea then what the world was facing and the test to our physical and mental health ahead. Fortunately, we can help and while it has always been our mission to break the stigma around mental health in the workplace, never has it been more important than right now.”

A Mental Health in the Workplace survey of over 2000 workers from different sectors was carried out on behalf of Talk Out in 2019.