Why do we need to talk about mental health?
Unfortunately, there is still a culture of silence surrounding mental health – in people’s everyday lives, in communities and in the workplace. Often we are not prepared to deal with this often “invisible” and often-ignored challenge. Despite it’s enormous social burden, mental disorders continue to be driven into the shadows by stigma, prejudice and the fear of disclosing because a job may be lost, social standing ruined, or simply because health and social support services are not available or are out of reach.
If you are reading this, and you don’t have a mental health problem you may be wondering how this is relevant to you? Sure you feel sad at times, but you’re not ‘clinical depressed’, and yes you feel anxious before standing up in front of an audience to present, but you don’t have an ‘anxiety disorder’. So you may be asking yourself why do you need to care about mental health at all?
So let me tell you why… it’s because you’re brother has depression, you’re manager has an anxiety disorder and struggles to let go or delegate and is perfectionistic in nature, you’re best friend’s wife has post natal depression, you’re best friend from school has PTSD from serving in IRAQ and has regular flashbacks, you’re employee has bipolar, a co-worker is depressed and not coping as they are going through a divorce, you’re friend has a drug problem because he is self medicating as a coping strategy to deal with his life – there are people all around us that are coping with some sort of mental health issue. Yet we choose to silence them, leaving them in these shadows.
It’s time for us to change the way we think about mental health issues, it’s time to stop putting our hands over our ears and start listening.
1 in 5 people fear disclosing stress would put them first in line for redundancy. (Mind, 2011)
One in four people experience a mental health problem in any given year and many people feel scared and confused about confronting the issue at work. There is still a universal barrier to progress, with mental health seen as a weakness or excuse. This means staff feel unable to disclose stress or a mental health problem, while managers are not aware of problems or do not know how to broach the subject.
What is essential is that companies recognise this as an issue that affects their business and that can affect all employees, whatever their role or level. This message should be communicated throughout your organisations so that your staff are aware of what support is on offer and feel that their mental health is valued.
Employees working long hours (11+ per day) are almost 2.5 times more likely to suffer a major depressive disorder
Some employers are leading the way, showing commitment to safeguarding the mental health of their employees. With the constant demands and pressures on employers and workforces showing no sign of slowing down, it is imperative that organisations make mental health a priority.
It is great to see that when employers embrace the experiences of their staff, and empower them to tell their own stories about living with a mental health problem, we can begin to a reverse in this culture. Senior leaders are starting to recognise that their organisations are only as strong as their people. In addition, Time to Change has found that attitudes, knowledge and behaviour towards people with mental health problems are more likely to improve if people are given the opportunity to learn from someone who has personal experience of mental illness.
It is essential that employers create an environment that creates conditions which support and encourages good mental health.
I believe that preventative measures are key, these are essential to being able to act as early as possible. This can avoid issues spiralling, whereby it pushes the employee to leave work. It is often waiting to long that sometimes makes the inevitable.
This is Me – In the City, is a campaign to encourage conversations on mental health in the workplace. Run by the Lord Mayor’s Appeal team and in partnership with Mind, Barclays, Business Healthy and the City Mental Health Alliance, this is a new push to help encourage the City to collaborate and raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing and reduce stigma in the workplace. It is based on a similar project run by Barclays which has been going on with much success for two and a half years. The time is right for the City to speak up for good mental health and supportive workplaces. I really hope you will add your voice. This is Me is having its launch event on May 20th.