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Mental Health in the Workplace

Posted by Lizzie Allen 13 May 2019

MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

Work plays a major role in our lives. Many of us spend most of our time there.

And while a fulfilling job with great colleagues can be good for your mental health and wellbeing, we all go through patches where things can get on top of us.

Maybe it's a tight deadline for a big project, or a difficult commute to and from work.

Maybe it's not work-related at all - health, relationships and all sorts can impact our wellbeing.

Chances are, your mental health may be affected at some point during your career. In fact, the value added to the economy by people at work who've had, or currently have, mental health issues is about £225 billion per year. That represents 12.1% of the UK's total GDP.

At Swift360, we believe everyone should be able to work safely. And while physical safety is something that's often focused on (through the use of personal protective equipment), mental health is a topic that can be forgotten.

We're here to help change that. In this blog post, we'll dive into:

  • How to recognise a mental health problem
  • Why people don't talk about mental health
  • How to manage your mental health at work
  • How to improve your workplace culture so it's more mentally healthy for everyone
It's important to speak to GP's and/or specialists in this field for certified advice and help. Please take this article as a mental health awareness piece only.

How Do I Recognise A Mental Health Problem?

Mental health issues often have a lot of different symptoms. For this reason, you should always seek help from your GP if you experience any difficult feelings that:

  • Prevent you from getting on with your life
  • Negatively impact the people you work or live with
  • Affect your mood over several weeks
  • Make you feel more tired than usual

It's important to note mental health problems don't always cause a person to feel tired, sad or drained. Some mental health issues might speed up a person so they appear chaotic and take on more work than they can manage. Always look out for early warning signs in your colleagues, as it's often hard to see in ourselves at the time.


Why Don't People Talk About Mental Health At Work?

First of all, let's start with a positive - mental health awareness is definitely increasing!

However, we still live in a world where many of those with mental health issues face discrimination and challenges at work. A lot of people who experience difficult feelings (as listed above) will try to hide their distress as they fear what colleagues will think about them and how they'll respond.

As such, it's important to create workplace cultures where people feel safe to be themselves and speak about mental health. This makes it far easier for those who suffer from mental health issues to reach out for help when they need it.


How Do I Manage My Mental Health At Work?

Everyone can help improve their mental health and their ability to cope with difficult situations.

Here at four ways to improve your mental wellbeing:

  1. Talk about how you feel and ask for help - If you're open about your feelings at work, your colleagues will be able to support you. It might also encourage other people to speak up about their feelings and ask for help. However, if you don't feel like you can talk about your feelings at work, you should make sure you have someone outside of work you can speak to e.g. friends, family, partners.

  2. Stay active - It's been proven time and again that regular exercise boosts self-esteem and improves sleep, concentration and productivity. Experts suggest you should do about 30 minutes exercise five days a week.

  3. Eat and drink well - What we eat and drink can affect us in both the short and long-term. Diets that are good for your physical health will also be good for your mental health. In a similar way, drinking water has physical and mental health benefits. Try to stay away from alcohol if you're feeling low or anxious - it might provide temporary 'Dutch courage' but has serious long-term consequences (such as increasing feelings of anxiety).

  4. Take a break - When you're on annual leave or at home in the evenings or weekend, try not to check in with work. This is important 'me time' and should be used to enjoy doing things you like and de-stress. If you find you can't resist the temptation to check your work emails, it might be an indication you need to adjust your workload to make it more manageable during work hours.

How Do I Improve Workplace Culture?

There are various ways a company can create a mentally healthy workplace:

  • Support the development of compassionate and effective management relationships - Provide managers with relevant training so they can support their team in dealing with mental health issues.

  • Champion the importance of mental health and wellbeing - Create mental health programmes, designate champions, review the way you do business to ensure the culture is as mentally health as possible, send out regular staff surveys and use the findings to plan and deliver improvements, recognise and celebrate the positive impact of employee benefits.

  • Address any discrimination - Make sure staff know mental health discrimination is unacceptable and should be reported.

  • Value the diversity and skills of those who experience of mental health issues - Recognise mental health as part of wider equality initiatives and ensure your workplace has a culture which welcomes people with mental health problems into your workforce.

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