Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health in the workplace is a significant aspect of employee welfare.

But when you hear that there’s a training course addressing topics like anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders etc.

Are your first thoughts along the lines of: “this is not for me” or “why would people want to talk about those things?”

If they are, you are by no means alone and it’s certainly not unusual to have those thoughts. In all parts of our Society, in every Sector, mental health is a topic that should and needs to be discussed as the following facts indicate:

  • An estimated 1 in 4 people experience some kind of mental health issue at some point in their lives.
  • Those who experience mental health issues face stigma and discrimination in various forms
  • Very few people want to talk about their mental health and few people know how to respond or what to say if someone discloses that they have a mental health issue
  • Good physical health and good mental health are intrinsically linked

Throughout this thought piece, I hope to assist in providing you a better understanding of mental health in the workplace, offer ideas on ways you can help either yourself or others, give simple tips and techniques that may help.

Many of us think we fully understand mental health, but do we fully understand it or the different aspects of one’s life it can affect? 

Are we aware of ways we can help or make a positive influence at home or in the workplace?

Just as physical first aid requires early intervention to stop it developing into a more serious issue, as does mental health, with the earlier the intervention, the greater the likelihood of recovery.

“Workplace Mental Health” is a term that’s become part of our everyday language, but what is it?

It is a state of mind in our everyday working life, it is the way we think, feel and our ability to deal with various situations. 

Every individual has their own threshold and one person’s breaking point is another individual’s everyday work.

What is common though is that, irrespective of the role we fulfil, we will all experience difficult times – we feel out of our depth, can’t cope; overwhelmed.

However, it is not simply work pressure that effects a person’s mental health, personal life and outside factors can and do play a big part in how we cope at work, additionally not only do mental health issues financially cost the economy greatly but they also, naturally, have a high personal cost to individuals – sadly, sometimes the ultimate price is paid.

Mental Health in the Workplace

10 tips that can help promote wellbeing and in turn your overall mental health.

Eating habits

Yes – everyone says it, but it really does make a difference! If you eat healthily, it makes you feel cleaner, lighter and more energised.

If your workplace doesn’t provide opportunity for healthy eating then prepare your meals at home or buy food to take in.

Take a defined break and eat your lunch away from your desk where possible.

If you need to snack, choose things like fruit, nuts and other healthy options.

Reduce your caffeine and sugary drinks then increase your intake of water-based fluids.

Don’t be a statue!

If you’re in the same office as others, get up and talk to your colleagues instead of sending an email or making a phone call; you will build better relationships and create the opportunity to talk (however scary that is!). 

Remember, you spend more time at work than anywhere else so why not make it fun with positive experiences and enjoy your days.

Get some structure

Irrespective of how many goals/targets/objectives you may have, write them down.

Number them in order of importance and plan your steps to reach the end for each one.

Be realistic about what is urgent vs important. Don’t put pressure on yourself and give or agree to unrealistic timeframes.

Ask for Help or Guidance

If you follow point 2 above then, by doing this, you will have the confidence to ask for help or guidance from others as you will have established solid relationships.  Conversations help to add different views and perspectives just might help you progress and ease any anxiety.

Mental Health in the Workplace

Be Positive

We have to accept that sometimes it can be hard to stay positive.

However, if you can find a positive aspect to challenging situations (the Chinese characters for “crisis” are the same as for “opportunity” by the way!), you are more likely to achieve a goal or just enjoy your work a little more.

No matter what life and work throw at you, there is usually a positive to be found; always try and look on the bright side of life!

Meditate and Be Mindful

Practise your breathing – learn how to breathe properly.

Read, listen to music or just be silent and aware of your surroundings. Actively practise mindfulness!

Be thankful

Remind yourself of all of those things you have achieved, the obstacles you’ve overcome in getting to where you are today.

Be kind to others

This makes us naturally feel good – “the feel good factor”! Reach out to someone and be there for them when you can.

Be Positive

Just as “behaviour breeds behaviour” so “positivity breeds positivity”! However hard it is – find and hold that positive thought.

Accept Things You Can’t Change

In some situations, we have 3 choices – change the situation, accept it and change the way you view the situation or, if you can’t do either, leave the situation.

It is pointless to waste your thoughts on something out of your control; staying in the past achieves nothing and those things that stressed you then will still stress you – lean from the past to apply to the future.

Some last reflections:

Most people with a mental health condition are able to work. It may take time to work out what the right job is but, to be honest, my view is that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you are happy and have the right work/life balance for you (crucial ingredients in contributing to positive mental health).

To be in work is very important for those experiencing mental health issues. Of course it may be hard.

However, people who focus, who have the right support, who can find the strength from within, who remain positive and determined, will find that anything is possible!

I know from personal experience (close friends and family) how debilitating poor mental health is. 

Having lost a very close friend to depression – yes, he took his life – and having worked with him on his issues as much as I could before he refused my help and that of the professional services, the topic is close to home.

I had a healthy interest in mental health before but my experiences made it much more than an interest.

Working with those who need it makes you feel like – even in some small way – that you can make a difference! The majority of us know someonewho suffers from a mental health illness of some description.

Thankfully (and about time!) we see that Governments are investing more money and a lot more organisations across all sectors are supporting mental health in the workplace by investing in their staff to attend a mental health first aid course – we’re even seeing school children receiving the appropriate level of mental health training. 

Why don’t YOU be the person who promotes mental health wellbeing in your workplace?

Attending our two day course, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) will give you the tools and techniques to be more confident in talking about the various mental health issues, to be able to provide first step support to someone experiencing mental health issues (until they can access professional health) and contribute to you playing your part in helping reduce the stigma and discrimination experienced by those who face mental health issues. 

Written by Darrell Foster

Deputy Head of Learning & Development at HAD

Click here to learn more about our MHFA course or to book!