According to Mind, the mental health charity, approximately one in four people in the UK will experience mental health issues this year. It is safe to assume that somebody in your life will be affected, whether that be a family member or a colleague in the workplace.
The stigma associated with mental health can be challenging to deal with, but CK believe this is something that must change. A lack of understanding or an unwillingness to open dialogue can stand in the way of somebody suffering being able to seek support from their colleagues. Whilst not everybody will feel comfortable discussing their challenges, creating a positive, safe and healthy working environment can make it easier for people access help from those working beside them.
Here are five things you can do:
Educate your workforce
Limited knowledge about mental health issues can lead to people developing subconscious prejudices, or not knowing how to help in an important situation. Therefore, providing education to your employees on the subject will ensure that this does not happen, as well as create a more honest and productive work environment. It is important that we are all able to recognise the signs and symptoms that a person might be dealing with a mental health problem, which could stem from past trauma or an ongoing physical illness, as well as have an idea about what to do to assist anybody in need.
If your staff feel that they are able to speak freely about their well-being in the workplace, problems are less likely to build up overtime – which in turn, will make issues quicker and easier to resolve. For those dealing with their mental health, they are likely to need less time off (17.5 million days are lost each year due to mental health problems according to the BBC) and their morale will be higher whilst at work, if they are able to talk openly with others.
Treat it like any other illness or health concern
Much of the stigma surrounding mental health assumes that these types of issues are less serious and therefore less important than physical problems, however this is not the case. Symptoms of poor mental health show themselves in different ways, such as a lack of sleep, short temper or becoming distracted easily. Making reasonable adjustments where necessary (as you would for a disabled individual) will help lessen the effect of their mental health problem. It might help to adjust working patterns or allow remote working, in some instances.
Avoid making assumptions
If you suspect somebody may be suffering from an issue, or are curious about what you can do to help somebody who is, asking questions and allowing the individual to talk openly will help you figure this out. Making assumptions or acting without solid knowledge could worsen the issue, causing embarrassment and perpetuating misunderstanding. It is always better to take the time to educate yourself in order to create the best plan of action.
Create a culture of trust
Establishing a confidential, trusting work culture will make it easier for people to open up about things that are bothering them and access the help they need without feeling judged or under pressure. Ensuring your staff know that you care about their well-being is key to building meaningful relationships and a workplace everybody is proud to be a part of.