May 14, 2019
It's Mental Health Awareness Week so ask youself....do you really know how your co-workers are?
- 1 in 4 will experience a mental health problem each year
- In 2017, the overall cost of mental health problems to UK employers was almost £35 billion
- 3 out of 5 employees experience mental health issues because of work
- 84% of managers accept that employee wellbeing is their responsibility but only 24% of managers have received any training in mental health
- Almost two-thirds of worldwide suicides are committed by men.
What needs to happen
There are many causes to mental health issues and this can be exacerbated by a feeling of loneliness or nervousness about speaking to anyone about it.
Unlike a more visible illness (such as cancer, a lost limb, or even a common cold) many people fear they will be judged for announcing to friends, family, employers or a doctor that they are suffering from a mental illness.
It is no surprise that male suicide is on the increase, historically men are not as likely to talk about feelings the same way that women are likely to. Suffering in silence is like a weed that is ignored – it keeps growing until it completely takes over.
Therefore, making wellbeing and mental illness more acceptable as discussion points in the workplace can help encourage communication between the sufferer and a friend, family member, colleague or stranger.
Symptoms of mental illness
Each illness has its own symptoms, and it can often be impossible to identify someone who is suffering from mental health issues. However common signs include the following:
- Excessive worrying
- Feeling sad or low
- Problems concentrating or learning
- Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable feelings of euphoria
- Strong feelings of irritability or anger
- Avoiding friends and social activities
- Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
- Consistently tired and suffering with low energy
- Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
- Changes in sex drive
- Difficulty perceiving reality
- Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
- Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing aches and pains)
- Thinking about suicide
- Inability to carry out daily activities or challenges
- Body image issues
What can you do for your staff?
Most people do not seek out any kind of support and opt to suffer in silence. Many GPs will provide a ‘quick fix’ of anti-depressants as opposed to putting processes in place to support the sufferer. However, business can hold the key to improve many people's wellbeing and introduce proactive processes to facilitate a supportive environment that encourages team members to seek help if they need to.
1. Organise a breakfast briefing or tea break event to raise awareness about mental health
Events during morning briefings or tea breaks can be a good way not only to raise awareness, but also to encourage conversations across your workforce.
2. Organise a social event
It can help to discuss work issues outside of the office with colleagues who are experiencing similar issues. Sometimes friends and family cannot relate to the challenges of a job role and therefore cannot offer understanding or advice. This can lead to increased isolation.
3. Drop-in sessions
Workers can be apprehensive about approaching colleagues or managers during a busy working day as they don’t want to be an inconvenience – this is particularly prevalent with those who suffer from feelings of worthlessness or insignificance. So provide drop-in session times each week which gives staff the opportunity to have a brief chat and raise any issues.
4. Pay it forward
There is a common school of belief that someone should feel they are contributing to society in order to be happy.
So try introducing a scheme which encourages people to support a chosen charity. You could even take it one step further by offering volunteer-based sabbaticals!
5. Share resources
Providing your team with useful resources demonstrates that you care about their wellbeing and helps open them up emotionally for future conversations. Secondly, it provides them with useful tips, advice and reading material which could make a huge difference.