• How many people are effected by mental health in the workplace?
• Which department is responsible for managing mental health in the workplace?
• Advice for employers: how can you help your workers?
• Advice for Employees by Mental Health Advocate Claire Thompson
How many people are effected by mental health in the workplace?
Figures suggest that up to 18% of workers are dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress. This can stop your people from performing at their best, therefore negatively affecting your business.
• 5.9 in 100 people have general anxiety disorders, whilst;
• 20.6 in 100 people have had suicidal thoughts at some point in their life.
But attitudes are changing. Awareness is higher than ever in the media. Negative stigmas are beginning to fade. People are more empathetic, possibly because they have either felt, or know someone who has felt the same way.
Which department is responsible for managing mental health in the workplace?
For the purpose of this blog post we will discuss mental health in the workplace from a health and safety viewpoint, although it has to be said that there is a departmental crossover with HR. As such, we would advise that the two departments work hand in hand when it comes to the wellbeing of employees.
Advice for employers: how can you help your workers?
When interviewed on how to manage health and safety in the workplace, here’s what our managing Director and Chartered Health and safety consultant, Adrian Lee, had to say,
“Mental health in the workplace is widely misunderstood. Effective and considerate employers support employees who are experiencing mental health problems, helping them to cope and recover.
“Lots of organisations are out there to help, not least Mind and Remploy, and they offer great service and assistance but there are many things that you can do within your own business to assist.”
He goes on to provide some practical suggestions for managing mental health in the workplace:
Put in place positive policies that commit to the support of staff.
These policies should include:
- Formal staff development for all staff
- Reduction strategies to ensure that the workplace is free of bullying and harassment.
- To listen, take notice of and support those who display signs of stress or discontent, and those who take the step to confide in you regarding their mental health.
Risk assessments should cover stress in the workplace.
Solutions to reducing stress risks could include:
- Actively monitoring workloads,
- Flexible working hours (where possible),
- Opportunity to work at one’s own pace.
Don’t forget that employers are under a general obligation to take reasonable care for the health and safety of employees in the workplace. This means that they have a duty towards people who may have mental health issues, and a duty towards other employees if there is a risk of a staff member with a mental health issue doing harm to others.
Stand by and help people when they experience a mental health issues.
This assists in keeping hold of a valuable staff members and also sends a message about your business values.
You may wish to consider creating personalised support plans, help staff to develop suitable coping strategies and ideas for adjustments in the workplace or practices.
Create a culture that supports staff to be open about their mental health.
This supports staff who experience a mental health problem, allowing open conversation about their mental health.
Managing a worker’s sick time and their return to work can aid a positive and supportive atmosphere when returning to work.
Advice for Employees: by Mental Health Advocate Claire Thompson
Claire has used her own experiences and her professional art skills to raise awareness of mental health issues and to encourage people to seek help. She works with local charities to spread the word.
- Working life is a good support tool. I find that it keeps my mind occupied with thoughts of productivity, so I’m not dwelling on cycles of intrusive thoughts.
- Be open with your employer or someone within your workplace that you trust regarding your mental illness. Also being able to talk to someone both in work and at home helps relax tension.
- Flexible working hours help to accommodate individual needs and aid work capacity.
- A good work/life balance is important. It helps to keep you grounded and routine is good.
- ‘Knowledge is power’. The more you learn about your mental health illness, the more you can fight it. As with OCD, you can’t just switch off your illness at will, you have to learn to live with it.
- Don’t be ashamed to come forward to discuss your thoughts for fear of ridicule or the perception of other people. Sometimes it just helps to know that there are other people who have felt the same way or experienced the same intrusive thoughts.
- There is no shame in taking medication or therapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and ERP (Exposure Response Prevention Therapy). These aid you in coping with life yourself, maybe even without further need of medication and therapy.
Art and Mental Health Awareness
In relation to my illness, I have begun a creative project to help raise awareness of mental health disorders, and OCD in particular. I feel that despite the knowledge I’ve gained about OCD, it is still a stigmatised condition and there are lots of people who suffer for that reason.
My project will also be in the form of an animated novel, which will inform, support and raise awareness of this often misunderstood condition.
Images such as the one below will be used as analogies to get people to think more deeply about mental health conditions.
Local charity ‘Imagine Independence’ are helping me with the project. I am also hoping to get charities such as MIND, OCD UK, OCD ACTION and The Samaritans on board.
“Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.”
— Fyodor Dostoevsky, Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, 1863
This is called Ironic Process Theory. This experiment is to show that it is futile to try to control your thoughts. So with regard to OCD, I adopt the technique of thinking of the ‘intrusive’ thought to see it disappear and the anxiety with it lessens.
I hope I can encourage people to talk more about how they are feeling or what they are thinking. This is positive and helps you learn and develop as a person. It is also okay to not want to talk. The most courageous thing anyone can do is to be alive. You should praise yourself even if you can just manage to get out of bed in the morning. And if you can’t, you are still breathing, still alive – despite what your illness tells you.
Small steps often lead to bigger achievements. If we can all support each other, we can achieve amazing things.
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