Throughout May, VERCIDA will be marking Mental Health Awareness Month.
Despite the prevalence and impact of mental health issues, there is still a stigma surrounding mental illness. As a result, many people can feel ashamed or embarrassed to discuss their mental health issues or to seek help when they need it. This stigma prevents people from seeking the support that they need, leading to worsening symptoms and a decreased quality of life.
Mental health issues can have a profound impact on individuals as well as their families, friends, and communities. Mental ill health can lead to social isolation, financial difficulties, and strained relationships, as well as contribute to physical problems like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
The theme of 'anxiety' is highlighted in this year's Mental Health Awareness Week, which is from 15 to 21 May 2023
- In the UK, over 8 million people are experiencing an anxiety disorder at any one time (Mental Health UK) and:
- Less than 50% of people with generalised anxiety disorder access treatment (Mental Health Foundation)
- An estimated 822,000 workers are affected by work-related stress, depression or anxiety every year (Health and Safety Executive)
Mental health awareness involves understanding mental health's impact on individuals, families, and society.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as a state of well-being in which an individual realises their abilities, can cope with the everyday stresses of life, can work productively, and can contribute to their community. Mental health, therefore, is not just the absence of mental illness but rather a state of complete emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
Unfortunately, mental health issues are becoming increasingly prevalent. According to WHO, around 1 in 4 people will experience mental health issues at some point. Changes in ways of working have also introduced new mental health challenges. A recent global report from OECD cites that almost half (47.6%) of people with such conditions were absent from work at least once over the previous year, compared with just under one-third (30.4%) of those without such conditions.
Mental health issues can manifest in various forms, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addiction. These conditions can affect individuals of any age, gender, or cultural background.
Mental health issues impact individuals and their families, friends, and communities. They can lead to social isolation, financial difficulties, and strained relationships. Furthermore, mental health issues can lead to physical problems like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Despite the prevalence and impact of mental health issues, there is still a stigma surrounding mental illness. As a result, many feel ashamed or embarrassed to discuss their mental health issues or seek help. This stigma prevents people from seeking the support they need, leading to worsening symptoms and a decreased quality of life.
It is essential to raise awareness about mental health issues and the importance of seeking help. One way to raise awareness is through education. Educating people about mental health issues, their symptoms, and the available treatments can help to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Another way to raise awareness is through advocacy. Advocacy involves speaking out about mental health issues and working to improve mental health services and support. This can include advocating for policy change and sharing personal stories.
Finally, it is vital to prioritise mental health in our daily lives. This includes practising self-care, seeking professional help, and supporting loved ones struggling with mental health issues. By prioritising mental health, we can work towards creating a society that values emotional and psychological well-being.
In conclusion, raising awareness can reduce mental illness stigma, promote education and advocacy, and prioritise mental health in our daily lives.
Ten actions an employer can take to raise awareness of Mental Health issues
- Provide Mental Health Training: Employers can arrange mental health training programs for employees, including workshops on how to recognise the signs of common mental health issues, how to support employees experiencing these issues, and how to maintain positive mental health.
- Encourage Open Communication: By encouraging open communication, employers can create a culture that values and supports employees' mental health. This could include regular check-ins with employees to discuss concerns, having an open-door policy, and providing access to confidential support services.
- Offer Flexible Working Arrangements: Offering flexible working arrangements to employees, such as flexible working hours or working from home, can help employees better manage their mental health and reduce stress levels.
- Promote Work-Life Balance: Employers can encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance by offering opportunities to take regular breaks during the day, offering paid time off, and promoting activities outside of work that can support mental health, such as exercise or mindfulness meditation.
- Provide Mental Health Resources: Providing employees access to mental health resources, such as counselling services, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and online mental health resources, can significantly help.
- Educate Employees on Mental Health: Employers can provide educational materials on mental health, such as brochures or posters, to raise awareness and reduce stigma.
- Address Workplace Stress: Employers can identify and address sources of workplace stress, such as excessive workloads or poor management practices, to help reduce the risk of mental health issues among employees.
- Foster a Supportive Work Environment: Employers can foster a supportive work environment by promoting teamwork, recognising and rewarding good performance, and providing opportunities for employees to socialise and connect.
- Include Mental Health in Health and Safety Policies: Employers can include mental health and safety policies, including procedures for managing and responding to mental health issues in the workplace.
- Lead by Example: Employers can lead by example and demonstrate their commitment to mental health by prioritising the mental health of their employees, modelling healthy behaviours, and promoting mental health awareness throughout the organisation.
In addition to the the many actions that organisations can take, Employee Networks (otherwise known as Employee Resource Groups) offer an alternative avenue to supporting employees’ mental health. Employee Networks are a great way of bringing individuals who have a shared identity, culture or experience together, and when they are effective can help to create a culture of physical, spiritual, emotional and psychological safety.
If you would like to know more about the role of Employee Networks, VERCIDA Consulting are offering a FREE one-hour virtual bitesize learning session on ‘How to Create Effective Employee Networks’ on Tuesday 30th May at 14:00hrs.
The facilitator will be highlighting best practice as well as sharing practical guidance to building effective employee networks that will ensure that an organisation remains fair, equitable and free from discrimination. The session will also outline how Networks can help to ensure a culture where everyone feels listened to, included and valued for their individual identity, culture or beliefs.
This bitesize session is FREE to attend and all you need to do is register to attend by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
For further advice on what supportive actions you can take to support employees, contact: email@example.com
A people-centred approach to mental health care