Given that one in four of us will experience some sort of mental health problem each year, it is surprising that many people feel mental health is too thorny or uncomfortable an issue to talk about. This discomfort and a lack of communication about mental health often leads to misconceptions about mental health problems. As a result, nine out of 10 people who suffer with mental health issues experience stigma and discrimination because of those problems.
Things need to change.
And since so much of that discrimination takes place in the workplace, that’s the area that World Mental Health Day 2017 is focusing on this year. So regardless of where you work, take some time this World Mental Health Day to give some thought to the wellbeing of yourself and your colleagues. Talking is often the most effective way to get the ball rolling. So, here are five ways you can help to bring mental health into the open, where it can be tackled with openness and honesty which are, after all, the greatest weapons we have against stigma and discrimination:
- Send this article around to get people talking. The ‘Did you know?’ facts at the bottom should help to get a conversation started, even if it’s just a casual five-minute ‘watercooler’ chat. It’s easy for people to overlook how common it is to suffer from mental health problems and also what the real costs are. As you’ll see below, men are particularly susceptible to bottling things up, since many see their natural worries and stresses as a sign of weakness.
- Organise a time and place for a Tea and Talk with your colleagues. The Mental Health Foundation are offering free Tea and Talk Packs to help you arrange and plan your session, which could incorporate a quiz, a bake-off or even a fundraising bake sale. Coming together to talk about what it’s like in your workplace will help to raise any issues, as well as build and strengthen relationships amongst your colleagues. Strong, warm, open relationships with others are of the utmost importance for good mental health, so it’s something all employers should support.
- If any issues do come up in conversation, about how mental health could be handled better in your workplace, then put a business case to your senior management team. High staff turnover could reflect that your workplace has room to improve. Consider morale and levels of stress amongst yourself and your colleagues and think of ways these could be alleviated. It might also be worth finding out about how exit interviews are conducted when people leave work; if there’s a consistent trend in people’s reasons for leaving that could help to reinforce your arguments
- It’s a good idea for every workplace to have a mental health ‘champion’, who acts as a mouthpiece for employees, who may otherwise be concerned about approaching senior management directly. You could volunteer yourself or chat with a colleague who you think would do a great job at representing you and your team.
Did you know…?
- More than 65% of employees feel they can’t talk to their boss about mental health because they’re scared or embarrassed.
- More than a third of men report that when they’re feeling low or worried, their close friends and family are unaware of their struggle.
- 50% of perinatal mental health problems are not identified or treated, costing the UK upwards of £8 billion each year.
- More than 50% of UK adults admit they probably wouldn’t employ someone if that candidate suffered with depression, regardless of whether they were the best applicant for the job.
- 50 million antidepressant prescriptions are written in the UK every year, that’s the fourth highest in Europe.
5. Find out more. We should all engage with our own mental health, it’s not something that can be swept under the carpet. This mental health survey can help you to establish how you’re doing compared to the national average. And if you do know someone who’s struggling with a mental health problem and want to help them, this advice from the Mental Health Foundation offers a sound place to start.
Last modified: October 10, 2017