In 2019, conversations around mental health are now much more common and as a society, we are undoubtedly more accepting of mental health problems. And while we can give ourselves a collective pat on the back for this, there’s still work to be done, particularly around how to speak about mental health in your workplace.
Companies and employees both have roles to play to reduce stigma around mental health problems at work. A good place to start is to get staff to realise that we all have mental health, in the same way we have physical health. Unfortunately, mental health is still associated with negativity and problems, yet we are all on the mental health spectrum.
Some days our mental health will be great, others less so, and hopefully it will not deteriorate in to a common mental health problem. So if we can appreciate this, and take time to think about the factors that are making us feel mentally healthy or unhealthy it’s a good place to start.
That thinking could just be a two minute self check-in, where you think about how you are feeling mentally and what could have contributed to that. If you’re feeling good, could exercise and / or a good night’s sleep have been factors? If you’re feeling lower than normal or agitated, maybe it’s a heavy workload or a lack of physical activity that is contributing.
When we appreciate that our mental health isn’t something that exists in isolation, then it makes having conversations around it that much more easier, particularly in the workplace.
Confident conversations around mental health
And when those conversations begin, that’s possibly when employees who’ve experienced mental ill-health may feel more confident to talk about their experiences. This will help create more understanding within a workplace. If that colleague has made a good recovery, it will help banish myths or preconceptions around mental ill-health and perhaps make people aware that such problems are common.
If senior managers are open to talking about mental health in general, or their own experiences, this can set the tone for the workplace. We recently ran a workshop for a client where the MD shared his experiences. He hadn’t suffered from a problem, but he talked about how his interest in cycling helped him be more mentally healthy (as well as physically). He admitted that if he hadn’t gone out for a bike ride for a while he could get stressed more easily, yet post cycling he felt happier, more productive and had a more positive outlook.
Sharing stories and experiences is something the This is Me organisation encourages in workplaces. It wants to reduce the stigma around mental health in the workplace and its green ribbon campaign has been growing in prominence over the past four years, acting as a visible sign of commitment for supporting mental health in the workplace and beyond.
Businesses can register for the to be part of the This is Me campaign where they can access a host of material to help support mental health in the workplace. To date, 700 UK organisations are involved, a range of sectors including charities, hospitals, schools, civil service, law firms and banks.
To find out more, visit: www.thelordmayorsappeal.org/a-healthy-city