Are you aware....
People needing help
I have only been using LinkedIn consistently for the last couple of months however I am sure I am not alone in noticing an increase of posts with people struggling with their mental health and reaching out for help (thankfully), especially those people who are trying to find work at the moment. There has been such a huge increase in job losses that the employment scene is so competitive and unfortunately it is not likely to improve anytime soon, so people really do need extra help and support.
This also seems to be echoed by people who are still working but finding things difficult with the recent lockdown and such a dramatic change in ways of working. Some may think that it’s easy working from home, however for lots of people it is very difficult to cope with the isolation, unsuitable living arrangements for working, and being able to differentiate between the workplace and home, especially if they have had children at home for the past few months.
No matter how much things have moved on, and despite a definite increase in people talking about mental health, there still appears to be a stigma around mental illness which really saddens me. According to MHFA 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year, and thankfully they have published evidence that management in the workplace is improving. 9% of employees who disclosed mental health issues to their line manager reported being disciplined, dismissed, or demoted.
Note: The percentage of people reporting discipline, dismissal or demotion in the Business in the Community report has reduced over the last three years: it was 15% in 2017, 11% in 2018 and 9% in 2019, however 9% is still too high! https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/research-and-evaluation/mental-health-statistics/
The impact of mental ill health - MHFA
· 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year
· 792 million people are affected by mental health issues worldwide
· At any given time, 1 in 6 working-age adults have symptoms associated with mental ill health
· Mental illness is the second-largest source of burden of disease in England. Mental illnesses are more common, long-lasting and impactful than other health conditions
· Mental ill health is responsible for 72 million working days lost and costs £34.9 billion each year Note: Different studies will estimate the cost of mental ill health in different ways. Other reputable research estimates this cost to be as high as £74–£99 billion
· The total cost of mental ill health in England is estimated at £105 billion per year
· People with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition. This equates to 300,000 people – the equivalent of the population of Newcastle or Belfast
· 75% of mental illness (excluding dementia) starts before age 18 Note: Dementia is more accurately described as a progressive neurological disorder (a condition affecting the brain’s structure and subsequent function over time), and typically does not occur before the age of 30
· Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK
· 70-75% of people with diagnosable mental illness receive no treatment at all
These are some of the statistics that MHFA published in May 2020, and I would hazard a guess that some of these may have increased with the sudden and continuing global pandemic, Covid-19.
Don’t suffer in silence
Thinking about the number of people who have been asking for help, I can’t help wondering how many are suffering in silence! Maybe you don’t realise that help is available, or maybe you feel embarrassed or ashamed. Perhaps you believe that you are supposed to be strong and nobody will understand what you are going through.
To you, I say - please believe that there is help, that people will understand, and you may be surprised who knows exactly how you feel. Do not keep things to yourself! If you can’t talk to your family, tell a friend. If you don’t think a friend will understand, think about a work colleague or someone you have seen posting on social media that might understand. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them as it is so important that you talk about it.
There are many resources that can help you if you are struggling, and the NHS signposts many of them - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/
How can we help
We all know that the mental health resources in the NHS are very limited so, as family, friends, work colleagues and even social media connections, we all need to look out for the signs and be there to help, support and listen wherever possible. Don’t be afraid to ask if you think somebody may need your help. If you suspect that somebody may be having very dark thoughts and could be suicidal, be direct and ask them? They may not be, and you can feel reassured; however if they are, they may well open up to you and you can get the appropriate help for them, either by contacting family or calling 111 or 999 if necessary.
Support in the workplace
At work, employers and team members often tend to tiptoe around the subject of mental health as they are concerned about saying the wrong thing or repercussions, however the worst thing that you can do is to ignore it. Ideally you will have an HR representative who will know how to manage the situation and ensure that the employee gets the right support. If not, please make sure you get the right advice to ensure you don’t become one of the MHFA statistics for taking the wrong course of action.
There are many things that you can put in place to help staff’s wellbeing:
· Introduce a health and wellbeing policy with a programme to support it, which include ways of managing mental, physical and financial health
· Introduce a stress policy
· Provide mental health awareness training to staff and managers
· Depending on the size of you workforce, and your environment consider mental health first aiders
· Introduce an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) with a reputable provider
· Encourage staff to take care of their physical health, and ensure that lunch breaks and appropriate rests are taken
Why this is important to me
I feel very passionate about this subject and feel it is so important for businesses to support their staff, as I have personal experience of mental health issues myself. I struggled with anxiety, which was hugely debilitating at the time, and had very little support from my workplace at the time, however having the right support (a very understanding hubby) and feeling able to open up to people around me, made such a difference. I have since trained as a mental health first aider, and I am always keen to support staff in the right way in the workplace. If you would like some information about how I can help you with this, please do get in touch.
More importantly though, please look after each other and be kind. You never know what somebody may be going through.
Business Owner – People Connections