Written by Tim Martin, CEO, WorkInConfidence
Talking about mental health isn’t always a comfortable thing. It’s been so uncomfortable in fact, that we (as a society) have avoided talking about it altogether.
People suffering from mental illnesses often feel unable to go to their managers and ask for help. Now is the time to end mental health discrimination, by getting more and more people talking about mental health issues. Discussions around the impacts it has on people and the support we can all give. We are all responsible for bringing about a positive change and ending the stigma.
Time to Change Survey Stats
One in five people with mental health problems believe that long hours, unrealistic workloads or bad management either caused or exacerbated their condition. If you’ve never experienced any kind of mental health problem, it’s difficult to understand the challenges living with them presents.
Surveys highlighted one in four of us will suffer some form of mental health problem during our lives. In the workplace, 77% of people reported experiencing symptoms of poor mental health. The majority felt they had not received the necessary support they needed to work through it.
The Realities of Mental Health Conditions
Mental health issues can have all sorts of effects on your day to day work life. Anxiety can make an employee constantly worry themselves into a frenzy. Depression can make it difficult for an employee get out of bed in the morning, nevermind finishing tasks on time. Bipolar or schizophrenia can make employees behaviour erratic, or struggle to cope with their workload and interactions with others. All of these conditions will affect a person’s ability to do their work. As an employer, it’s your job to ensure they are well taken care of.
What Can You Do?
Your organisation can get involved on #TimetoTalk Day in lots of different ways; ranging from big events and PR activity, starting a conversation in the breakroom or creating a safe space in your office. Here are a few simple, (but effective) ideas for you to try out.
Enlist Mental Health Champions
These are people who will take a proactive role in supporting the mental health of your workforce. They will be there for any staff who might be having a problem to talk to in confidence. A well publicised and allotted ‘mental health hour’ slotted into the working week is a great way to reassure staff that there is someone there for them. A simple ‘my door is always open’ sign and a plate of cupcakes can be a real comfort too. Your mental health champion could take the lead in organising events and activities to help employees cope. These could include mindfulness sessions, stream of consciousness exercises, and workshops on how to set healthy goals.
Create Spaces For Relaxation
Sometimes all that people need is a space that’s completely separate from everyone else to process their thoughts. If you don’t already have one, create this space in your offices. A spare meeting room with a few sofas and bean bag chairs will do. Fill this room with resources and ways that people can access help. Remember and don’t push it on people – and don’t punish people for using it. Create a mindset to your staff that if they need a break , this room is always available, no questions asked.
Tell Personal Stories
One of the best ways to encourage people to talk about mental health in the workplace is to share stories. Personal stories are really powerful, and they can change how people feel in discussing their mental health issues. If you have employees with experiences of mental health problems, ask them if they would be willing to volunteer to write a blog about their journey. Share your volunteers stories on your intranet or company email, and encourage others to do the same.
Events are a great way to get everyone together and talking. This could be anything from an informal ‘tea and cake morning’ to ‘lunch and learn’ sessions about mental health. The Time to Change charity have some great resources around organising and hosting events on their website. This quiz is a great example of an effective conversation starter to do with a group.
You can and should make time and space for your employees to talk. No one should have to go through the struggles of mental health issues alone. As an employer it’s your responsibility to make sure your employees are happy and healthy. Small steps can make a big difference to someone who is struggling to cope and needs support, start that journey now.