What is Mental Health?
Mental health is something that can affect anybody, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. However, there are certain factors that can bring anxieties and mental health concerns to the fore. These can include, but are not limited to, financial concerns, job security and relationship troubles which can manifest in many forms such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, depression and GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder). Physical symptoms can also occur, such as ‘headaches, stomach problems or chest pain.’(NHS) With such a large umbrella of symptoms, it is important to start focusing on mental health as a key contributor to a person’s overall health. According to Mental Health UK, there are ‘approximately 7.5 million people in the UK living with a diagnosed mental illness’. Despite this, there is still a stigma attached to mental health and this needs to be challenged.
Impact of mental health within the Workplace
Good mental health is a key factor into a thriving workplace. Poor mental health can potentially lead to higher absence rates and lower performance figures. The charity, Mind, state that ‘1 in 6 workers experience problems such as anxiety, low mood and stress at work.’ In a business with a workforce of 1,000, this could mean that potentially 167 employees are impacted. Following on from this, GOV.UK states that ‘Poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of between £74 billion and £99 billion.’
The coronavirus pandemic has also had a huge impact on people’s health and wellbeing, both from an economic viewpoint, with job insecurity being a key factor, but also from the personal viewpoint, of adjusting to working from home and the social isolation from that.
How can mental health be maintained within the workplace
Aside from the employer’s duty of care to protect their employees, employers should make the time to train their staff (and themselves) on the importance of good mental health and offer guidance and support where needed. There are many charities and organisations that can offer support, guidance, and information to help achieve this, such as the charity, Mind. Mind have created a site called ‘Mental Health at Work’ which ‘brings together resources, toolkits, blogs and case studies into one place.’ The NHS website also has a ‘Five Steps to Wellbeing’ which lists five suggestions to help manage a person’s wellbeing. They are:
- Connect with other people
- Be physically active
- Learn new skills
- Give to others
Employers could get involved with the annual World Mental Health Day, which, for 2022, takes place on Monday October 10th and is focused on the campaign, Making Mental Health & Well-Being for All a Global Priority. (WHO) This would be a great opportunity for employers to bring to the fore the importance and focus of mental health of their employees. By doing so, not only is any negative stigma being challenged, but also it opens opportunities for employees to speak up in a safe and encouraging environment. If the stigma is challenged, and the support is there, then society could move towards a ‘a world where mental health is valued, promoted and protected.’ (WHO)