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World Mental Health Day – Mental health in the workplace

world mental health day

We all know what it’s like to feel stressed and under pressure, however, not everyone is able to develop positive coping mechanisms before these feelings turn into more serious problems.

It’s arguable that one of the main places that people become overwhelmed by stress is at work. So, what can you do to help combat this?

The first thing you can do whether you’re an employer or an employee is make it clear in your workplace that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of and that support is always readily available.

One thing that is guaranteed to make stress worse is when panic and shame are thrown into the mix so it’s highly important that the correct message is spread.

It’s great that as time progresses the stigma surrounding mental health is decreasing but there is still a long way to go and much more that can be done.

So, what can you do as an employer?

First and foremost, it’s a great idea to use Mental Health Awareness Day to broach the subject with your employees. Highlight the topic and have an open discussion about it.

It’s important for authority figures within your business or organisation to make it clear that employees will not be penalised for being honest about their struggles.

The first step in feeling like we want to open up is knowing that we aren’t going to receive a negative reaction or consequence.

Too many people feel like telling someone about their problems will put their careers at risk. This has to end. If people feel replaceable and dispensable, they are way more likely to hide their struggles, and way more likely to deteriorate mentally.  

As an employer, you have a legal obligation to have a written risk assessment surrounding stress and it must be put into practice.

If you notice that an employee is have mental health difficulties, try to initiate a conversation about their thoughts and feelings. Early detection can make a massive difference, even possibly preventing a person from becoming more unwell.

It can be helpful to provide things like information packs, leaflets and helplines that can inform and educate people on where to seek advice and help. However, it’s important to remember that from a manager’s point of view, it’s your duty to assist in making reasonable adjustments at work rather than trying to understand, and even fix, a person’s diagnosis. Their GP, medical assistance or occupational health are fully qualified to provide support in that department. They should also be able to offer them extra guidance on what you can do as an employer to help.

One such thing could be introducing  a system where employees can approach their managers for action plans. These plans can state clear information on what support will be given and what steps will be taken to try and improve the employee’s situation. One thing you may want to include in these plans are ‘code’ words. Some people want to make it apparent that they are struggling (for example, having a bad day) without having to actually explain and verbalise it.

How about as an employee? What can you do to look after your mental health at work?

It’s no surprise that you might feel stressed at work when you consider how much time you spend there. We can’t always control the things going on around us which can lead to all sorts of negative emotions.

The first thing we would recommend is evaluating your role and workload. This helps you to figure out what is causing you to feel stressed. Are you happy in your current position? Do you feel out of your depth? Is too much work and responsibility being placed on your shoulders? Are certain people making you feel uncomfortable?

These are the things you need to be thinking about. However, recognising the causes of your issues won’t necessarily solve them if you aren’t willing to talk about it. You want to avoid getting to the point where you feel trapped and unable to cope. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your feelings with people at work, you could always start by seeking help from an outside source, such as a helpline.

Other things you need to consider are:

  • Do you have a healthy, balanced diet that provides your body with the nourishment it needs?
  • Are you getting enough exercise?
  • Are you mindful of your emotions? Can you recognise how you’re feeling and address it without feeling overwhelmed?
  • What is your living environment like? Do you get enough fresh air?
  • Do you have a strong support network made up of family and/or friends?

The next thing we would suggest is trying out different things that might help you to unwind. For example, you could try out a sport, take part in a new hobby or join a local club.

Knowing how to relax is great, but if you’re someone who panics when they get stressed, you also need to work out effective ways of calming yourself down. One thing you might find helpful is breathing exercises. For example, take slow, deep breaths in through your nose and then breathe out through your mouth.

At the end of the day…

It’s highly important to dedicate some of your free time to yourself.

Some people get so wrapped up in taking care of everything and everyone around them that they end up burning out.

If you feel that you’ve reached breaking point or are fast approaching it, please seek help. A good starting point is to keep an emotional diary in which you note down how you feel and what triggered those emotions. This helps you to keep track and ultimately enables you to figure out what things you need to avoid, change or learn positive coping mechanisms for.

When all is said and done, nothing is more important than your mental and physical wellbeing. If you feel that your employer or fellow employees do not agree with that statement, then you might need to move away from a negative environment.

It’s common for the people that we surround ourselves with to rub off on us, so, it makes sense that positive, kind people will have a good influence and toxic, nasty people will not.

Bear all of this in mind when deciding who you want to keep in your life and where you want to spend your time.

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