Remove the stigma of mental ill health in the workplace, be aware of how it may affect people in your business & what can you do to support your employees.

When you hear the words “mental health” what do you think of?

In 2014 the WHO defined mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to their community”.

What about when you hear the words “mental Ill health”?

There are many different ways to refer to mental ill health, including mental illness, breakdown and burnout. There are also many slang phrases, that we all probably used without even thinking about it, crazy, bonkers, nuts…………. it is these terms promote the stigma that surrounds mental ill health and it’s that stigma that means mental ill health is often not treated.

We all have down days, days where we feel stressed out or times when we feel fear and our bodies have a natural way to cope with that. The fight or flight response is something that has kept us alive as a species, that feeling of adrenaline, change in breathing, pale or flushed skin, do we stay or do we run? In many circumstances that feeling passes and we return to our usual state once the cause or situation has passed.

It’s when the fight or flight feeling doesn’t pass and instead intensifies that our mental health suffers, understanding your own fight or flight response can help you react to situations.

We need to be aware of the subtle signs that we, a friend or a colleague may show when we are experiencing periods of negative mental health. They could be changes in appetite, disrupted sleep, mood swings, withdrawal from social situations, brain fog, reduced productivity and unusual behaviour.

We are living through strange times, we have probably all felt some kind of anxiety, fear and isolation in the last year. Social distancing and changing restrictions to our lives are hard to process sometimes. With shorter days, a new request from Boris for remote working and less social interaction we need to be as aware as ever of how we can best protect our mental health and acknowledge and admit when we are finding that difficult.

We all know what we should be doing, getting exercise, having a good diet, staying hydrated and switching off at the end of the day.

If you and your staff are returning to or have never stopped working remotely there should be a dedicated workspace, a proper chair and good technology. Working at the dining table or on the sofa can’t be a long term plan! It’s also important to take regular breaks and have access to fresh and natural daylight.

Another recommended accessory for home working are houseplants, they have been proven to reduce stress and fatigue. Amongst other things they also clean the air which if it’s too cold to have an open window is a bonus.

Outside of work what else can we do to look ourselves a bit more?

  • We need to have some down time. Get lost in book that is pure fiction, have a bath, listen to music and avoid screens for an hour before you go to bed. Relax, you’ll sleep better
  • If you feel unwell, allow yourself time to rest and get better. Don’t think about what you should be doing, or worse still try to do it anyway. Wait until you are fit again
  • Say ‘no’ sometimes, don’t get carried away but it’s ok to say no if you really need to
  • Make lists and prioritise your work, tick things off when you’ve completed them so that you can see that your really are getting somewhere.
  • Take up a hobby, play a sport, volunteer. Doing something for you
  • Remember to breathe, take deep breathes and rebalance yourself

Most importantly talk, regular contact with your team on a business level but also a social one is still important, it helps maintain your relationships and will help you identify potential changes in mental wellness.

If you’re feeling mentally unwell tell someone about it. If you don’t feel that you can openly discuss how you’re feeling with family, friends or a work colleague you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 from any phone.

There is no shame in admitting that your mental health is in a bad place, people are slowly becoming better educated about it mental wellness and ill health and hopefully soon we will be comfortable enough to speak up about our mental health as freely as we do as when we are physically unwell.

The stigma attached to mental health problems means that people feel uncomfortable about talking about it but there are so many organisations that can help if you reach out to them.

Most people will experience at least one period of mental ill health, the good news is that with the correct support and help, much like with physical health most people will make a recovery. These feeling will pass.

How do you support mental good health in your business? Do you know what to do if you are worried about someone who you think may be suffering with mental ill health?

Mental health, emotional health or well-being, however you might refer to it is as important as physical health and should be looked after with the same considerations and priority.

If you would like to talk to us about mental health awareness training or mental health first aid for you or your managers, please let us know.

Resources you may find helpful

Mental Health Foundation




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