It’s good to talk – championing the importance of mental health

24th February 2020

Mental Health is still very much an issue that needs to be worked on, especially in the workplace.  Just a quick scroll on to the MIND website brings up some eye-opening statistics:  

  • More than one in five employees had called in sick to avoid workplace stress 
  • 14% of people had resigned and 42% had considered resigning over workplace stress 
  • 30% disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed’ 
  • 56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve employee wellbeing but they don’t feel that they have the right training or guidance 

I could go on with the figures from various publications about the cost of mental health, the number of days lost etc… but the message is clear for me. We still have a long way to go.   

Mental Health First Aid courses are regularly organised throughout the industry. The MGAA Next Gen group along with Valentis organised one in January where we had eight individuals qualify.  These courses are designed to empower people to not only support their own mental health, but also equip them with the skills to provide first aid to your colleagues who may be experiencing mental health issues or may even be in crisis.  

In 2019, The MGAA Next Gen group had really strong ties with Mental Health. We organised a #timetotalk shape and share session back in March and also a workshop at the MGAA conference in July.  Both were really well attended events that brought attention to this important topic. 

Seeing friends and colleagues experiencing anxiety in the past I know these sessions can be invaluable in helping them and even strangers in getting through these times.   

If you are sick, you go to the doctors. If you have a broken leg you go to the hospital. All of these are visible to the outsider, but if you have anxiety to whom do you go?  

Some of my friends see a professional counsellor, maybe once a week, and I am sure that has helped them no end. However, they were the lucky ones as their employers had specific benefits services.  But not everyone has access to an employers’ benefits schemes which we all know can play an essential role in providing support for mental health given the challenges they face in the workplace.  Having a support mechanism in place for employees to seek professional help is just another way employees can help. 

I am a strong believer in that we need nerves and a small level of anxiety in our lives and our work. It helps motivate, it can ensure we are prepared and it can focus our minds on the task in hand. The trouble is that if it becomes too much or transitions to an individual’s natural state it can have serious repercussions to their health and wellbeing. This is when it becomes a problem and we as individuals should try and be aware of this when working with others.  This is where sessions such as the first aid courses can be invaluable in the workplace. 

What complicates this issue further is where employees work from home or remotely. A 2019 survey by Buffer, a global social media branding company, found that 49% of remote workers note their biggest struggle is wellness-related and within that, 22% can’t unplug from work and that 8% can’t stay motivated.   Supporting colleagues when they are visible and in the office can be a challenge in itself, but helping home workers is another thing. Communication, honesty and trust have to be the foundation of any process of catering for home workers in businesses. 

Mental health is a tricky subject and in the workplace there are barriers to support people. Whether that is not having the tools or experience as an employer, having home workers who are struggling or just recognising when our colleagues are down.  There is support out there for people and I would encourage everyone to engage. 

Ben Busfield

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  • Author : MGAA
  • 24th February 2020