Are your employees thriving or merely surviving? The charity Mind state that 1 in 4 people are suffering from mental health problems in any one year, and that 1 in 6 people are suffering in the workplace.
Further research suggests 1 in 25 suffer to such a degree it has a severe impact on their home and work life. Stress can be a key trigger and for many of us this can start, or be exacerbated, in the workplace.
You don’t have to look far to understand the prevalence of mental health issues at work either. The BBC regularly put a spotlight on the two royal princes and their work to promote mental health issues and remove the stigma, in addition to providing valuable links to organisations which can help with mental health issues.
Take a look around you, at your family, friends and colleagues, and the chances are at least 1 or more are suffering a mental health issue and struggling to leash The Black Dog, to use the metaphor for depression from Winston Churchill.
The science behind the stress
7 years ago, in 2012, Ruby Wax performed a TED talk which is as relevant today as it was then. In this short talk, Ruby gives a humorous and frank account of her own problems but with a serious and scientific factual element. She explains that we are not equipped for the 21stcentury. Our stress response was developed to help us run or hide from predators, but in a world of emails, deadlines, social media and body shaming the chemicals released from the stress reaction just make us ill. What’s so funny about mental illness? | Ruby Wax
It’s incredible that we’ve been talking about these issues for so long and yet so little has changed to remove the stigma and shame of admitting a problem. We don’t think twice about cleaning our teeth twice a day to look after our dental health but how often do we take time to look after our mental health?
5 ways to spot mental illness in the workplace
So how do we spot signs of mental health issues in the workplace? Here are 5 signs to ask your managers to look for:
- Confusion– are employees showing signs of confusion that are out of character?
- Increased absences– especially just before or after the weekend?
- Difficulty concentrating– leading to productivity issues and missed deadlines?
- Exhaustion or tiredness– late arrivals, longer breaks and even sleeping on the job?
- Mood swings and emotional outbursts– either verbally with colleagues and in meetings or digitally via email and social media tools?
We have a moral responsibility to help people who are struggling with mental health issues at work and a duty to try and make their work life more bearable in order to reduce their anguish and help ease the tension which will inevitably seep into their home lives.
There is a cost benefit to be had here too. Lost time due to absence and sickness in addition to the impact of low productivity has a negative impact that directly hits the bottom line. By supporting workers with mental health issues we can not only make their life a little easier but also reduce the cost to the employer.
Mental health awareness is continually gaining momentum. You only have to look as far as Eugene the egg, whose ‘cracking’ campaign reached more than 52 million people and broke the record for Instagrams most liked image. With Mental Health awareness week running from the 13th to 19th May 2019 why not make sure your workplace is doing its part to support workers with mental health issues.
The Mental Health Foundation has a very useful booklet on how to manage stress at work which you can make available to staff to download. In addition, Mind has excellent information for staff and managers on how to be mentally healthy at work.
Changing mindsets and attitudes is key to identifying and managing this growing health problem. The workplace is an ideal place to engage in these issues. Let’s hope that it won’t be too long before we talk about our mental health checkups as easily as our dental checkups as a matter of course.
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