Mental health problems do not discriminate.

Depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies can affect anyone, at any time. In December 2018, a study by NHS Digital reported on the BBC found that one in six people have a mental health problem. The World Health Organisation puts the figure at closer to one in four. It’s great news that awareness and discussion of mental health issues is growing in the UK. This societal shift is helping to put pressure on the government to spend more in this area. Yet there are still very few companies offering managers training on how to spot mental health problems and support their staff. Mental health problems are more prevalent than we often think, as people are adept at masking them. However, they can have a big impact on a company, in addition to the individual concerned. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD):

  • 37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues
  • 57% find it harder to juggle multiple tasks
  • 50% are potentially less patient with customers.

Considering the above, in May 2019 we decided to rewrite our health and wellbeing policy to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week.

What are we doing? First, we are organising training for all managers over the summer. We will encourage all of them to become aware of the impact of mental health problems on an individual and the company, how to spot problems, and how to approach people sensitively. It’s not just a manager’s duty, though. All of us have to look out for one another. If someone in our team is going through a stressful life event, like a bereavement, we have a moral responsibility to check in with them. Ask them how they are. Ask them again!

Second, we are committed to publicising the potential avenues of support for anyone who is experiencing problems, both inside and outside the company. Just as is the case for physical health, prevention trumps cure. So, as well as these commitments, we are taking further steps to ensure a positive working environment for everyone. That means ensuring everyone knows what’s expected of them in their role: regular face-to-face catchups, more regular internal communication, being clear about our company’s vision, purpose and strategy, seeking more opinions from the team, encouraging autonomy and mastery in their roles, and monitoring working hours. We’ve always championed ultra-flexible working and a decent work-life balance, and we bring in additional resources before someone gets overwhelmed. Meanwhile, we’re encouraging the team to look after themselves. Self-care is important. We don’t want to tell people how to spend their free time. But there’s strong evidence that spending time outside in nature, regular exercise and meditation can all reduce stress.

We’re delighted to have teamed up with the MCL Medics Employee Assistance Health and Wellbeing Programme. Their EAP service is specifically built to assist staff proactively improve their health and wellbeing. There approach is to focus on wellbeing, providing nutrition through their app and providing support with personal and/or work-related matters. Their app highlights four key areas of advice for good mental health:

Nutrition, which offers bitesize nutritional information, videos, myth busting facts and content highlighted the benefits of different diets.

Fitness, which highlights wellness content that will help you make better choices. The content includes videos, articles and tool kits by qualified fitness instructors and physiotherapists.

Mind with its focus on sleep, stress, anxiety, mental health awareness and wellbeing – as well as evidence-based articles, meditation and relaxation techniques.

Virtual World, which offers the opportunity to select a face-to-face video chat or audio with a counsellor.

Food for thought. During Mental Health Awareness Week 2019, the BBC ran a series of ads and articles for celebrities talking about their mental health problems. Notable among these was the comedian Jason Manford, who sums it up beautifully: “Just because you’re struggling, doesn’t mean you’re failing,” and “next time you’re struggling, maybe say it to someone you love.” Or, indeed, tell someone you care about and who cares about you. We want everyone to know that if they have a problem, they can tell us and they will get a sympathetic hearing. That’s the right path towards mental health and happiness, and for us to become an even more supportive company.