Mental Health in and out of the Workplace

When you consider the most important things in relationships, common themes include communication, honesty, respect and trust.  This doesn’t just relate to romantic or family relationships, it also applies to the employer/employee relationship.  Right now, more than ever, it’s vital for honest communication between different parties.

It’s important to understand employees’ needs.  They may, for example:

      • Have childcare issues or be home schooling
      • Be vulnerable and shielding
      • Have a family member who currently has COVID-19
      • Be concerned about returning to work and what this will mean

As an employer, clearly communicating your plans for home working and returning to work is extremely valuable, and so is inviting feedback from staff.  This can reduce or allay any fears from the outset.

Employees might benefit from:

      • Flexible working hours/days/times
      • Regular check-ins whilst homeworking, including virtual team meetings
      • Regular performance management

If you can provide positive feedback and reward, constructive feedback, advice and support where needed, and identify future training and progression within the business, you’re often rewarded with more motivated, committed, productive and loyal staff that will go the extra mile for you willingly. According to Mind, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, and in England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.

Why do people struggle with mental health?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model (below) shows that humans have a basic need to feel safe and secure, and then to feel loved and that we belong.  If you’ve had:

      • An Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) – e.g. loss of a loved one, emotional/physical abuse or neglect, a parent with a mental health issue/addiction, parents separated or divorced, or a parent in prison;
      • A UDIN - an Unexpected, Dramatic, Isolating event with No strategy to deal with it;

It can lead you to feeling these needs aren’t met, affecting your confidence, resilience, and the ability to share or cope with your feelings.  Over time this can lead to mental health or physical illness, and/or unhealthy coping strategies such as addictions.

Why it’s important to deal with the root cause?

 A person visiting a GP with stress and anxiety can often be prescribed a break from work, or even antidepressants.  An addict may be supported to stop drinking, smoking, using drugs, or change their eating habits.  Of course this is beneficial, but what happens afterwards?  When returning to work?  When the coping mechanism is simply taken away?  This doesn’t solve the real issue; it just deals with the symptoms.  The mindset needs to change so the person can:

  • Feel more positive and confident about themselves
  • Feel safe, secure, loved and that they belong,
  • Deal with the stresses of life and not need unhealthy coping strategies.

What can people do to help themselves?

      • Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling, whether it’s a doctor, family, friend, manager or colleague.
      • Know that life’s not perfect and it’s normal to sometimes feel sad, frustrated, or angry.
      • Difficult situations do arise but you don’t have to bottle things up or put on a brave face and deal with it on your own. It’s OK to say you’re struggling and that you’re not OK.
      • It’s easy to make comparisons and assume other people are doing better than you, but remember, you don’t know what’s going on in other peoples’ heads. Even people who seem to ‘have it all’. Remember the shock of Robin Williams’ death.
      • Find tools that can help you let go of any negative emotions that you’re feeling e.g. EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), Mindfulness, Meditation, Yoga, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), Hypnotherapy, Journaling.
      • Write a gratitude list (to focus on the positives in your life) and create a vision board (to plan for a positive future).
      • You may benefit from working with a professional, and if so, keep looking until you find a therapy that works for you and the right practitioner. This may mean looking outside the NHS, but the value and difference to you and your life could be incredible.
      • It’s important to let go of the past and let go of blame so you can be free and move on.
      • Even as a business owner, you can be affected by negative beliefs around success and money which can stop you achieving your goals.

How can you help someone?

      • Encourage them to talk about their feelings and to seek help if necessary.
      • Ask what might help them and offer to talk through various options/strategies.
      • You can’t fix them but you can support them to feel more empowered.
      • Helping someone with mental health can be difficult so if you find yourself being triggered, try to stay calm, take a break and look to deal with your own feelings around this.
      • Remember that a person with anxiety, other mental health condition or addiction is still a human being and not just the illness, so try to be kind.
      • There is no magic wand.
      • It can be difficult to reach out and make changes, but it is possible.
      • A person has to be ready and you can’t force them.