Mental health can be a very difficult subject to talk about, whether it’s due to cultural stigma, social stigma, or even fear of treatment. So, what happens when 1 in every 4 people in the UK suffers from a mental health disorder? We end up with a different kind of pandemic. One that takes a lot more time, resources, and lives than most diseases would. Most of all though, mental health affects more people than those who suffer from it. That’s why everyone needs to do their part to become the solution, starting with support at the workplace.
Now, with the extra stress brought on by the disasters of the covid pandemic, employee mental health is at an all-time low. In fact, surveys show almost 50% of employees have had a major decline in workplace productivity due to their mental health conditions.
Actions of reactions
If I asked you if you know what a mental health disorder is, what would you say? Like most, I would assume you would say “yes”. Maybe you could even list some mental health conditions, like for example:
- Anxiety disorder
- Behavioural or emotional disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Dissociative disorder
- Eating disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Well, what if I told you these conditions are all physical as well as mental. What would you say then? Like everything, there is science behind these reactions. Chemicals in our brains are what make us feel the world. Happiness. Sadness. Anger. All actions of reactions from our brains. However, too much of anything is bad for anyone.
So, when the levels of these chemicals get too high (or too low), people end up with a disorder. Left alone, a mental health disorder will most likely evolve to extreme forms. In these cases, the chemical levels that were already imbalanced reach toxic levels. This can cause physical damage to the tissue in the brain. If left untreated, these can become irreversible. Making the treatment of mental health issues early on crucial.
Talking about the elephant in the room
The solution to a problem does not come without first acknowledging the problem. However, you cannot acknowledge something if you do not talk about it. The stigma around mental health makes it a difficult topic to broach. So much so that, it has become common amongst those who suffer from mental health problems to bury it deep down, in some cases, for years.
That is also why identifying someone with such issues is almost impossible. So instead of trying to coax possible problems out of your employees, it may be more effective to create an open and safe environment. One in which they can speak openly when they are ready to. Another way is to open a direct line of communication. As a way of providing your employees with a sense of confidence. These private discussions could be promoted within your company via:
- Bulletin boards
Just knowing that there are options available will give your employees a more positive outlook in the workplace.
Doing your part as an employer
Your responsibility does not stop there, as an employer, it is your responsibility to care for your employees. This means putting measures in place and having them readily available when and if they need them. There are many ways to promote employee well-being, some of these include:
- Flexible working conditions – going back to work in an office after covid can be very intimidating. However, this does not have to be the case. Many workplaces have introduced flexible working conditions as a way to make the transition to work easier. When the work becomes too stressful, it gives employees a chance to take a step back and breathe. As it is sometimes less stressful to work from home.
- Initiatives – As of 2019 employee burnout has officially been declared as one of the medical conditions by the World Health Organisation. As the number of employees struggling with mental health continues to increase, employers need to be more proactive in their approach. Providing incentives for challenges is a great way to do this. Challenges such as a 10,000-step challenge or healthy eating challenges keep employees’ mental health in better condition, reducing anxiety and stress.
- Train yourselves – It is essential for employers to be trained in preventive measures. If an employee feels comfortable enough to share their struggles. It is crucial that you are equipped to deal with and guide your employees in the right direction. This means giving the right advice, providing helpline support, and offering the chance to be referred to professional help.
There’s always more you can do for your employee’s well-being. Think about your own experiences with stress or anxiety and how lonely it is to feel that there is no one to empathise with. In order to make a real difference, we must stop people from seeing mental health as a weakness. For more advice on mental health in the workplace or to learn about what we do here at Happie call us on 0207 537 6631 or check out our HR services page.