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Mental Health in the Workplace

It is undeniable; work is a prominent part of our lives. On a daily basis, we spend the majority of our waking hours either at work or socialising with colleagues, in fact often more than we do with our friends and families. With one in four people experiencing a mental health issue in their lifetime, it has never been more important to take care of our own and our colleagues’ mental wellbeing in the workplace.

Our mental health influences the way we think, feel and behave on a daily basis, and caring for your mental health is just as important as looking after your physical wellbeing. Positive mental health promotes better social interaction, balances our emotions and helps us to make rational decisions. It helps us deal with stresses and anxieties both in the workplace and at home. There are many ways in which we can care for our physical wellbeing – running, dancing, playing golf to name a few – but it is not always easy know what we can do to look after our mental health or to identify the signs that someone is struggling with their mental wellbeing.

There are several factors which can lead to increased stress in the workplace, for example managing a large workload, competing deadlines, or conflicts with managers and colleagues. For many of us, separating our work and personal lives has become increasingly difficult. Remote working has never been easier, but with the ability to check our emails on a 24/7 basis there can be an increasing expectation to be contactable by clients outside of normal working hours. I wonder how many of us will admit to checking our work emails last thing at night before we go to sleep, and then again first thing in the morning and throughout our daily commute?  But just because we can log on, is that affecting our ability to switch off?

Despite the importance of caring for our mental wellbeing, we often struggle to find sufficient time to dedicate to our mental health. Many do not know where to turn, or what to do, when they, or their colleagues, are experiencing mental health issues. Well, everyone is different and therefore not everyone who experiences mental health issues will exhibit the same behaviours. That said, some potential indicators that someone may be struggling with their mental wellbeing are: tiredness, panic attacks, becoming withdrawn or easily distracted, difficulty dealing with emotions, decreased productivity and increased absenteeism.

Talking about mental health has historically been somewhat of a taboo subject, with many preferring not to discuss their mental wellbeing for fear of being judged or feeling like a burden. However, the consequences of ignoring or trivialising deteriorating mental health can ultimately be devastating for the individual themselves as well as their family and friends. This is why it is so important for companies to create and nurture a workplace culture where everyone feels comfortable to discuss their mental wellbeing in an open and non-judgmental way.

A 2018 study conducted by mental health charity MIND, found that only half of employees with poor mental health had talked to their employers about it and in many cases, where concerns were raised, senior staff did not know how to deal with the issues. To support our staff’s mental wellbeing and to encourage discussion on the topic of mental health, Rayden Solicitors has two certified Mental Health First Aiders. The role of a Mental Health First Aider is to identify the signs and symptoms of deteriorating mental health and to provide colleagues experiencing mental health issues or crisis with immediate initial support, by using mental health first aid strategies and directing people to professional help if they need additional support. We are a non-judgmental ear and a shoulder to cry on, and can signpost our colleagues to other resources and support networks which will be able to offer longer term support.

Whilst there are clear benefits of having a designated Mental Health First Aider on your staff, if this is not an option or available in your workplace, some simple but effective steps which you can do to promote your own mental wellbeing in the workplace include:

  • Keeping active – it is not always easy to find time to exercise but taking a walk at lunchtime not only improves your physical wellbeing, it also gets you away from your desk and into the fresh air, reducing stress and making afternoon decision making easier.
  • Eating well – Eating good mood foods often and eating at regular intervals throughout the day, plus drinking plenty of water, keeps blood sugar levels stable, giving you a steady source of energy during the day. Caffeinated drinks and sugary snacks may provide an instant energy boost but this is followed by rapid decline in energy so these are best consumed in moderation.
  • Talking to someone – Even if your firm does not have a dedicated Mental Health First Aider, you should still be able to identify someone you can talk to about your mental wellbeing, whether it’s a colleague, HR, or a friend or family member. If your mental health is being affected by work pressures, your line manager may be able to implement strategies to help.
  • If you believe one of your colleagues is experiencing mental health difficulties an easy way to support them is by engaging them in conversation and listening. A simple ‘how are you?’ and taking the time to listen can go a long way, especially if someone appears distracted or more withdrawn than usual. This helps your colleague to remember that they are part of a team and do not need to face these difficulties alone.

Rayden Solicitors is proud to be supporting CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) as one of our charities of the year. Together with other mental health charities, CALM’s work has seen the stigma attached to mental health slowly eroded over the past few years by increasing public awareness and encouraging everyone to talk about their mental health.

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