676 million people are affected by mental health worldwide.
But what does mental health mean to you? This term tends to evoke a multitude of thoughts and feelings for so many people: empowerment, shame, fear, pride, happiness, sadness, wellbeing, neglect, depression, anxiety… the list goes on and on. The good, the bad and the unknown. Some have direct experience with their own mental health, and some have experienced mental health problems vicariously - perhaps through a loved one, a friend, someone at school, someone at work. And it’s the latter that I want to focus on.
Mental ill health is responsible for 72 million working days lost and costs £34.9 billion each year. Those people with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition.
So, whilst mental health continues to shed its stigmatism, there’s still a lot of work to do about how mental health is handled in the workplace.
We’ve all experienced a physical illness: sickness, a broken bone or even a common cold, but how often do we talk about mental health with our peers? Naturally, resolving mental health misconceptions is not about making people feel pressured to talk, but I think it’s important that we all play our part in providing our colleagues with an accessible and approachable pathway, that those with mental health issues can choose to tread, should they wish.
Recently I attended the Adult MHFA Two Day course and I’m now a Mental Health First Aider. I’m fascinated with mental health and passionate about improving people’s wellbeing to unlock their fullest potential, but it can be difficult to know where to start in the workplace. What’s appropriate? How would I approach a colleague with perceived mental health issues? How will this impact the business? How do I offer advice? Will I offend them? were all questions I asked myself.
As a certified MHFA, my takeaways are that your responsibility is to make the unknowns of mental health, known. It’s certainly not your job to diagnosis anyone, but it’s about spotting the signs that someone might be suffering i.e. a different behavioural pattern, assessing the current situation and arming them with all the information they need to make the decision that is best for them.