This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week, and the theme this year is stress.
The latest figures show that in the last year, 74% of people* have felt overwhelmed or were unable to cope.
Anxiety affected more than 8 million people in the UK and depression was the second leading disability behind back pain.
Current stats show that 1 in 4 of us will be affected by our mental health in some way or have someone close to us feel affected, but yet there’s still a huge stigma in admitting ‘I feel anxious today, why?’.
We live in an age now where our mental health affects us more than ever, either through workplace stresses or an unexpected life event, and these conversations should no longer have a stigma attached to them.
After all, we all have good and bad days. Surely admitting you’re feeling low is a very brave turning point?
In respect of the workplace, mental health affects all levels of an organisation.
Take a look at Lloyds Banking Group’s CEO Antonio Horta-Osório’s article in the Guardian about stress here.
As a previous sufferer of mental health, I cannot express how important this week is for the workplace.
You’re not expected to know the ins and outs of every single mental health issue, but as an employer, you should provide your colleagues with the necessary tools/resources to support them through a potentially difficult time in their life.
Your colleagues should be able to speak openly to their direct managers when they’re not having a good day, and not think that having these conversations will affect their performance or opinions of them in any way.
As employers, we should react positively. We should provide an open door for our our colleagues all day, every day.
Most of us spend more time in the office than we do at home so we should feel just as comfortable.
Be sure to point colleagues to the various external resources (there are plenty out there!), and consider flexible working – if the colleague is not feeling great today, can they work from home? or change their work pattern? or can you allow them to work a ‘compressed week’ allowing them to have one day to ‘switch’ off during the week?
Let’s all embrace this week, and continue encouraging open conversations about mental health, and get rid of the taboo – we are all human.
*Stats based on a poll of 4,619 individuals
If you are affected by any of the issues highlighted in this article, local signposting is available here.
If you are facing a time of crisis, do not wait, contact your GP, A&E or the Crisis Team on 642860.