With mental health being high on the agenda in the workplace environment and in view of it being World Mental Health Day on 10 October, I thought it might be useful to include a blog post about this important topic. Previously I’ve shared helpful and unhelpful words or language to use in support of someone struggling with their mental health and here I look to focus on some other relevant areas.
Let’s start by looking at ‘What is Mental Health?’ It’s the emotional and mental state of someone and affects how they think, feel and behave. With good mental health people can generally function well across all domains of life including socially, family, life, relationships, friendships, work and towards themselves. Poor mental health on the other hand affects someone’s ability to enjoy life and often results in feelings of unhappiness. People aren’t able to function so well across all areas and it usually impacts also on how they view or care for themselves.
In the U.K. 1 in 4 people will haven diagnosis of some form of mental health disorder within their lifetime and current statistics from Mind, the U.K. based mental health charity indicate that as many as 1 in 6 workers are currently dealing with stress, anxiety or depression in the workplace. It’s a concern for sure and not a topic to treat lightly.
Despite it being a topic talked about widely, including corporate campaigns, mental health awareness days and weeks, heightened awareness by mental health charities and a key focus across social media, there seems still a stigma attached to mental health; some form of invisible mark setting it aside from other things.
This stigma unfortunately can create feelings of guilt, shame, fear, inferiority, failure, being judged and just not being good enough by the person affected. In addition to the feelings already connected to poor mental health this doesn’t bode well.
This stigma can also prevent or delay people from supporting those suffering from poor mental health. Strong emotions and unusual behaviours often cause immediate distress in most people and associated unhelpful and unsupportive reactions result. These often include confusion and fear, judgement, frustration and anger and misguided compassion. Obviously these don’t help either.
Empathy and appropriate compassion, a listening ear, a relevant question, common sense, putting the other person first with considerations of what words or language might be helpful are often just what’s needed. No other special skills!
If you are a people manger, you know your people best. If you’re concerned about a colleague’s wellbeing, ask them how they are. Give them time to share and ensure that you create an open environment to speak up.
I think this little Pooh bear tale has a lot to give:
“Today was a Difficult Day,” said Pooh.
There was a pause.
“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Piglet.
“No,” said Pooh after a bit. “No, I don’t think I do.”
“That’s okay,” said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.
“What are you doing?” asked Pooh.
“Nothing, really,” said Piglet. “Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don’t feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.
“But goodness,” continued Piglet, “Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you’ve got someone there for you. And I’ll always be here for you, Pooh.”
And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs…he thought that his best friend had never been more right.
Let’s bring mental health into the open. Let’s be open to talking about it. Or supporting someone with it.
Time, attention and non judgement are key starting points. Just being there too. Finding the right professional support is often a positive step for everyone concerned. Speak to a GP, find a counsellor or therapist, talk to a life coach, Or just your best friend.
Let’s turn the stigma into support and recovery.
Contact me if you feel you could do with some help.