Mental Health Awareness Week
Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week will take place from 18 – 24 May 2020 and this is one thing that Covid-19 shouldn’t get in the way of.
Research has shown that mental illness cost the British economy almost £35 billion last year. Clearly this research was carried out before the Covid-19 pandemic so this figure is likely to be much higher this year given the impact this has had on each and every one of us.
With the current lockdown still in place, many employees are feeling bored, frustrated or lonely and may well be low, worried or anxious, or concerned about finances and health. More recently, anxieties have heighted regarding the implications surrounding returning to the workplace, how this may be managed and the impact this may have on them.
Many people still feel that there is a stigma attached to mental illness and this means many employees may be reluctant to talk about how they are feeling. Employers need to create the right environment where people feel safe to talk, without prejudice or fear of discrimination and this challenge is even more difficult with many people currently working remotely.
However, there is much employers can do know to encourage open conversations about mental health and explain what support is available when employees are struggling. One of the things that all of us can do is to become better at listening and trying to get people to talk. If you have concerns about how an employee is coping then try and talk to them, ask them how they are feeling and if everything is OK. Take time to show them that you care and that you are prepared to listen without judgement. It’s not about having the right answers, it’s about listening.
Tips for preserving mental wellbeing whilst working from home
At this current time, there needs to be an awareness of the risks of home working and how the drawbacks (e.g. isolation) may be addressed. Employees need to remain engaged, feel supported and ‘psychologically safe’ when working at home and below are a number to general tips to promote mental wellbeing whilst working at home:
- Keep to a daily routine – Where you can, start and stop work at fixed times and maintain boundaries between work and personal life.
- Stay connected with people – Keep in contact with colleagues, family and friends using the telephone, instant messaging, video conferencing tools and social media channels. Maintaining healthy relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing, so think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family while needing to stay at home.
- Look after your body – Your physical health has a big impact on how you feel. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour that end up making you feel worse. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water and exercise regularly. Avoid smoking or drugs and try not to drink too much alcohol. Try to get outside for some exercise and fresh air whilst, of course, adhering to social distancing guidelines.
- Limit the time you spend watching, reading or listening to coverage of the outbreak – Stick to the facts – watch only credible sources you can trust, such as GOV.UK or the NHS website.
- Talk about your worries – It’s perfectly OK and indeed normal to feel a bit worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember, it is OK to share your concerns with others you trust and doing so may also help them. Remember, this situation is temporary and, for most of us, these feelings will pass.
- Stay on top of difficult feelings – Whilst concern about the coronavirus outbreak is perfectly normal, some people may experience intense anxiety that can affect their daily life. Try to focus on the things you can control, such as your behaviour, who you speak to and where and how often you get information. Focusing on the present, rather than worrying about the future, can help with difficult emotions and improve your wellbeing.
- Do things you enjoy – Focusing on a favourite hobby, relaxing indoors or connecting with others can help with anxious thoughts and feelings. If you cannot do the things you normally enjoy because you are staying at home, think about how you could adapt them or try something new.
- Take time to relax and promote healthy sleep patterns – Relaxation techniques can also help deal with feelings of anxiety. In addition, getting a good-quality night’s sleep makes a big difference to how you feel mentally and physically. Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep up good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment. Use headspace or mindfulness apps, white noise machines, or audiobooks to help you sleep or take your mind off things.
What can Employers do now?
Employers can’t afford to wait until there is a return to normality to address mental illness in the workplace and there are a number of additional steps that they can take now to show their employees that they care.
Lincoln Occupational Health (LOH) has a number of programmes in place to assist employers with this and these include the following:
- Psychological support – LOH can facilitate sessions with our experienced psychologist who can offer the following:
- One to one flexible remote sessions via telephone, zoom, WhatsApp or face time to address any kind of employee anxiety/depression issue.
- Individual remote sessions for Leaders/Managers designed to assist with manager/leaders who are struggling with the current adjustments. There are huge considerations regarding the relationships between staff and their managers; some managers may not have normally approved of remote flexible working and will worry that it threatens staff productivity. Indeed, not everyone will be able to manage such issues sensitively and there is potential for conflict. These confidential sessions are designed in particular for leaders and managers to support them personally, as well as to give them time to explore and reflect on any leadership and management issues they are experiencing. This will, in turn, allow them to better support their teams.
- Time to talk sessions either involving a half day or a full day session, these can offer employees 40 minute slots to confidentially and individually chat through any issues they have. It’s designed to be an introduction to talking therapy. Bookings can be completed through LOH to maintain confidentiality.
- Mental Health First Aid training – this training can create workplace champions for mental health which is a great way to start changing attitudes. Mental Health First Aid (Eng) have now certified their courses to be delivered online and Lincoln Occupational Health is able to deliver these courses which have been developed to give attendees a deeper understanding of what mental health is and what factors can affect mental wellbeing. Please click here for further advice.
So, why don’t you use Mental Health Awareness week this month to implement some workplace mental health strategies?
Lincoln Occupational Health would be happy to give further advice to employers and employees to assist during this period, whether advice is needed on ergonomics, mental health or fitness to work issues.
Making a meaningful difference to the health of your employees