The Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace

Understanding the importance of mental health in the workplace

Mental health is important, and the workplace can be stressful, so every employer should aim to understand its importance in order to try and make it easier for their staff to speak up and remove the stigma surrounding mental ill health.

Figures from the Mental Health Foundation show that a staggering 70 million work days are lost every year due to mental health problems in the UK, showcasing the need for greater understanding in this area.

I, like many of my colleagues at The Floow, believe that understanding and caring for the wellbeing of our team is extremely important and that means looking out for their mental health as well as their physical health. Recently, alongside a number of other colleagues from across the organisation, I took part in a two day mental health training course designed to help us effectively handle and understand the mental health needs of our staff.

There was a clear outcome that the group wanted to achieve over the course of the two days which was to leave feeling better equipped to deal with friends, family and colleagues if, or when, they are experiencing mental health challenges.

Initially, the topics covered were quite broad and we began with an understanding of mental health and what prevalent mental health issues there are. I think many of us were surprised to learn how common mental health issues are, but also how many mental illnesses can be recovered from with the right support. A key take-away for all of us, and something that is very important to remember, is that mental health can be managed and it can improve.

We also looked in further detail at specific topics including depression, risk factors and suicide as well as the group being equipped with a ‘first aid’ approach to suicidal crisis, depression and other illnesses including anxiety disorders, post-traumatic event crises, cognitive and personality disorders, eating disorders and self-harm, amongst other subjects.

The first aid approach included an action plan which I think will prove to be extremely useful in the long-term and when faced with helping colleagues, family and friends. At a basic level, the action plan instructs you to follow ‘ALGEE’, which includes:

  • A - approach, assess and assist - approach if you are concerned, respect confidentiality. assess for crisis such as suicide / panic attack / psychosis - do not be afraid to ask someone if they have contemplated suicide and if they have a plan for this. assist - if it is a crisis, contact emergency services. If not, continue with the action plan
  • L - listening - listen non-judgmentally and understand how long they have been feeling like this
  • G - give information - give information and support - there are many resources available and recovery is possible
  • E - encourage - encourage the person to seek appropriate professional support
  • E - empower - empower the person to manage their own recovery through friends/family, self-help and self-care

This was just one of a number of useful and important learnings which were shared over the course of the two days. Some other take-aways from the course include:

  • Mental health is as important as physical health and often intrinsically linked
  • Mental health carries a stigma associated which isn’t often seen with physical illnesses, this can prevent people from talking about it or seeking the right treatment
  • Mental health issues are really common - most people at some point in their life will either develop or have close contact with someone who has mental ill health
  • If someone is having a crisis, you should not be afraid to ask them if they are contemplating suicide and, if you learn that there is an imminent risk, you should get professional help immediately.

I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to undertake this course and I would recommend it to everyone who has the opportunity to do it. It’s very important to normalise mental health issues, and to help people to get the help they need when they need it.

If anyone is struggling and needs to talk, contact Samaritans as soon as possible on 116 123 and visit mentalhealth.org.uk for further information of places where help is immediately available.

If you are interested in becoming a mental health first aider; courses are available here

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