Today is Time to Talk Day a campaign which encourages everyone to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives. We know that talking about mental health can feel awkward, but it doesn’t have to.
Mental health problems affect one in four of us, yet too many people are made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless because of this. A staggering 70 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.
The overall number of sick days taken per employee fell from 5.3 to 4.4 between 2008 and 2018, while the amount of time lost because of mental health conditions went up. Some workers are also experiencing “burnout” as technology makes it easier to log extra time and check emails outside designated working hours, and more seem to be affected by mental health problems in recent years.
Therefore, it’s vital that we address mental health at work for those with existing issues, for those at risk, and for the workforce as a whole. A toxic work environment can be corrosive to our mental health.
It can be difficult to spot signs of mental health problems in the workplace and many people are still reluctant to talk about their issues or struggles, with the fear of how they may be perceived by their colleagues and managers and how it will affect their careers and working relationships. Some common signs of mental illness to look out for though, include a dip in general morale and productivity in their role, reluctance to participate or co-operate, withdrawal from friends or colleagues, increased anxiety and negative changes in behaviour.
Having a Mental Health First Aider in the workplace can assist in recognising symptoms, support those who are in need and can guide the person to the relevant help as needed.
Similar to a first aid course, to become a qualified mental health first aider, you will need to attend a course which has been developed by MHFA England. The two-day course teaches delegates practical skills to spot the signs and symptoms of mental illness and teaches them how to be more confident in approaching and helping someone who may be suffering, how to really listen to them without interrogating or being judgemental, and how to help reduce the general stigma surrounding mental health.
Having someone who knows how to react and support someone who is struggling can make the world of difference to that person, and it is usually through relatively small and simple acts of compassion.
Although having a Mental Health First Aider within the workplace isn’t a legal requirement, more and more businesses as recognising the support they can offer to employees, so they are becoming more common place which is a great start!
The fact that people are talking about these issues more openly is really making a difference, and we aim to support our clients in creating cultures of openness and empathy where mental health is promoted.
If you would like more information on organising a Mental First Aider for your business, or would like to discuss how to approach mental health in your workplace, please get in touch. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0203 538 5311.