Mental health awareness and employee wellbeing

One in four. That’s the statistic we so often hear when it comes to mental health. Just think about that for a second: that’s at least 25% of your work colleagues; one sibling or parent; almost two whole tube carriages.

By throwing around statistics, however, we forget about the people. People who every day are dealing with an internal battle – whether depression, anxiety, stress, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. It’s an internal battle that for many can be hard to verbalise. Not only because how do you really explain to someone how you feel, what’s going on in your mind because you barely understand it yourself; but also because you don’t know how others will react when you do tell them.

And I’m not sure that this statistic of ‘1 in 4’ truly reflects the conversations we should be having around mental health, because really everyone has mental health, just like physical health. Throughout each of our lives, we will face times where we are challenged or stretched; where we may not be able to cope, or may need to ask for help.

While it’s a fantastic step forward for society that we are having many more open conversations about mental health, there is still a way to go to truly remove the stigma. In a survey carried out by Time to Change Wales in 2016, they found:

  • 1 in 10 believe that people with a mental health problems can never fully recover
  • 1 in 12 believe that as soon as someone shows signs of mental health problems they should be hospitalised
  • 1 in 10 believe that people with mental health problems are less trustworthy
  • 1 in 20 believe that people with mental health problems should not be given any responsibility
  • 1 in 10 said that being around someone with mental illness can make them feel uncomfortable.

A good place to start to address these attitudes towards mental health and to build open dialogue is at work. The average person will spend 90,000 hours of their life at work, and unsurprisingly it can have a significant impact on your mental health.

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is stress. We live in an age where it’s become ever more difficult for us to switch off. We’re always connected – Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, email, text messages – the list goes on. It seems that as we’ve become more connected, we have expectations of ourselves that it’s wrong to stop working; to not reply to that email at 10 o’clock at night because it’s now what’s expected of us.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that so many of us are feeling stressed. The UK Health and Safety Executive estimates that in 2016/17, 526,000 workers were suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety (whether new or long-standing, resulting in 12.5 million lost working days).

And while it obviously impacts on how you feel in work, your ability to do your job, and how others may view your ability to do your job, it also impacts on your personal life – you may feel too exhausted or anxious to even contemplate doing things with friends outside of work because of how you feel in work.

While stress cannot always be avoided, sometimes there are little things you can do to make you feel better. This Mental Health Awareness Week, Contentive – with parent company Blenheim Chalcot – has aimed to provide staff with some moments of calm and escape from the busy working day. We want our team to know how important we feel it is to take the time to rest, recover and refresh.

As a business, we are also committed to erasing the stigma around mental health, and hope to continue an open dialogue and ensure our teams feel suitably supported – long after this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is over. Only when our people are thriving can we as a business also thrive.

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