My mental health journey: Princes chief people officer Joe Dent

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Princes people officer Joe Dent talks mental health and the steps food businesses can take to help those dealing with mental health issues
Princes people officer Joe Dent talks mental health and the steps food businesses can take to help those dealing with mental health issues

Related tags: Mental health, Meat & Seafood, Ambient

Joe Dent, chief people officer at Princes, discusses his mental health journey with the business and steps other food firms can take to help their employees with similar issues.

In this exclusive podcast interview, Dent ran through his experience struggling with anxiety and how it affected his role with the ambient foods manufacturer.

He went on to talk about the growth of Princes as an employer, its support for employees suffering from mental illness and how opening up about his struggles with anxiety helped heighten awareness of mental health issues within the business.

“I think it opened up the conversation in the business and set the foundations in place for what we are now doing at Princes,”​ said Dent.

“We have a specific pillar of the people excellence strategy , which is all about health and wellbeing, and we’re now putting place the types of things we feel are necessary to help our colleagues and create the culture that makes it ‘okay to not be okay’.

“We’re putting in place the infrastructure that colleagues need to bring their best selves to work, but also to not come to work and fear judgement. We’re trying to create an inclusive culture where everyone is welcome, supported and has a vital role to play.”  

Tackling mental health issues

Dent then discussed the role that other food and drink organisations can play in tackling mental health issues within their workplaces and the work already being done in the industry.

“What I see in our sector is organisations embracing it, organisations trying to move the dial in terms of making mental health something that is open, safe and talked about and putting the support in place for their colleagues,” ​Dent continued.

“I don’t doubt that there is far more that we could do, that there are limits on what people can do to support colleagues, but generally speaking I feel reasonably positive and reasonably buoyed by what I see and hear about what other organisations are doing.”

Role models

Commenting on Princes serving as a role model for other businesses looking to embark on their own mental health support programmes, Dent highlighted that the shift in culture experienced by the manufacturer came after of years of more ‘conservative leadership’ that made it difficult to be open about these sorts of issues.  

“Whether or not they could learn from Princes, one thing I think other organisations could learn is that if there’s a will there’s a way,”​ he explained. “Although you may be starting from further behind than other organisations, that shouldn’t deter them from setting off on the path.

“I wouldn’t say we’re leading the way, but we’re certainly really committed and ploughing ahead with those things. If people who are debating whether or not to invest in that type of support of that sort of network, if we can help them or demonstrate it is worthwhile, then that would be fantastic.”

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