Connecting

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Paris Darknell

Addressing mental health in the workplace

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It’s Mental Health awareness week and we’re still worlds apart from conquering the stigma that surrounds mental health worldwide, and especially in the workplace.  

For someone dealing with mental health, your world may feel like it’s closing in on you and rational thinking is a distant memory as your brain spirals into overtime. Sleeping becomes a chore as you lie in bed worrying endlessly as soon as your head hits the pillow. You begin to pull away from friends and family because you’re embarrassed off the way you feel. You battle the mood swings, the highs and lows whilst continuing with your day to day routine. It's a vicious cycle.  

Many surveys suggest that most of us have experienced mental health issues at some point in our lives, whether this be stress, depression or just feeling a little anxious when walking into a room full of people. Yet we’re still reluctant to speak up about our feelings to friends, family and work colleagues. The silence becomes normality, despite us knowing that it doesn’t help.

In 2017, 3 out of 5 employees suffered from mental health due to work or because work was a contributing factor, according to a survey completed by The Prince’s Responsible Business Network. So why is this number so high?

Loneliness

Many companies now offer flexible working hours where their employees can work from the comfort of their homes, and whilst the idea of being able to respond to emails in your pyjamas sounds like a dream, at the same time people are losing the social aspect of working life. The idea of going for a Monday morning coffee or Friday evening beer becomes less likely and, in an instance, the most enjoyable part of the working day has been removed. This can lead to people starting to feel lonely and any current mental health problems getting worse before they get better.

Millennials

In a survey carried out by the Mental Health Foundation, it found that millennials (those aged between 18 and 38) felt more stressed at work than their older colleagues. Richard Grange, a spokesman for the Mental Health Foundation told The Times “Poor and insecure working conditions undermine good mental health. Millennials are more likely to have insecure contracts, low rates of pay and high entry-level workloads. The pressures they face in today’s employment market are very different to past generations.”

Speaking out

Some employees feel like they can’t to speak to their Manager about their issues, so what can employers do to change this?

  • Create a stress awareness space where employees feel comfortable starting a conversation about their mental health.
  • Always ensure that medical appointments are honoured, as a specific appointment could be essential in helping in someone suffering with mental health.
  • Educate senior staff – it’s important that individuals understand how to approach and help an individual who’s feeling stressed, depressed or anxious.

Three simple but vital steps for companies wanting to take a step forward in addressing mental health.

In February 2018, the Mental Health hub was launched through NHS Digital and they’ve advised that “At the end of February, there were 1,244,507 people in contact with services; the majority of these 1,007,578 were in adult mental health services. There were 190,366 people in contact with children and young people’s mental health services”. These numbers are significant to us all. So, next time you’re in work and notice that a colleague has been quiet or reserved, ask them “Are you ok?” because this simple phrase could be the first baby step in helping someone suffering with mental health.