Employee Benefits

Why now is not the time to stop thinking about mental health

Various studies pre COVID-19 showed positive mental health was under greater pressure in the UK population than ever, but the current environment is without question going to add to that pressure – especially as we move into darker/colder months, with ever more indication that restrictions are only going to be more restrictive.

While World Mental Health Day is important, it’s a bit like a car MOT – just because you have ticked that box today doesn’t mean that you (or your car for that matter) will be healthy in a month’s time. Please don’t, therefore, file your thoughts and the materials you have sent out to your colleagues for another year – please consider this as an ongoing challenge, and something to actively be reviewed. Maybe, something to actively consider further investment into – be it through Mental Health First Aiders, webinars, or introducing structured support where you don’t already have access to it.

As an employer, you have a duty of care when it comes to your employees, but it’s also surely the right thing to do for your business. If someone’s mental health is in a positive place then naturally they will be in a better place to get their job done well… An engaged employee is a positive attribute to your team.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive thing to do either – a digital detox, or encouraging people to take regular breaks through the day (that also assists with the physical issues of not moving of course…) arguably costs nothing for instance. In terms of a more structured approach, if you have insurance arrangements in place, the chances are that you have access to a host of relevant support services (often for free), but if you don’t, the likes of Broadstone can provide you with much of the support you need.

I am not medically trained, but it’s clear to me that if you have an open culture of talking about mental health conditions, Line Managers and colleagues that check-in with each other (ever important when we don’t see someone face to face to be able to judge a potential change in their health) and some structured support services available as needed, then you are part way there to positively impacting someone with mental health concerns.

There is still a bit of a stigma associated with mental health, but you will have hopefully seen stories from people we may otherwise ordinarily consider to be strong, confirming their own mental health struggles. I’d like to think that this open sharing will make others feel the ability to share their issues – it’s certainly not a sign of weakness.

No man is an island / a problem shared is a problem halved aren’t entirely accurate, but if you keep negative things locked up, they are only going to linger. I speak from personal experience when I say people I know have taken their lives because they felt they had nowhere to turn – it does no one any good letting these things fester.

Darker and colder days lead to further struggles in ordinary times, but as the concerns relating to COVID-19 continue, and further restrictions/lockdowns appear to be more likely than ever, it’s only going to test our mental wellbeing even further. This winter could be a real struggle for many, and we need to be mindful of this.

The three most important things we can all do when it comes to mental health:

1. Talk about mental health openly – it’s stronger to share than to keep it all locked up inside (and feel like there is nowhere to turn)

2. Make sure you are clear on what support and resources are available to you (and to your colleagues) – and importantly, how to access them.

3. Catch up with your colleagues – and not to talk business. Ask how people are feeling and listen to the answer, and if you have a concern, know that most businesses have access to support services, and if they don’t, the likes of MIND and The Samaritans are there for all.