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Creating a supportive culture to understand mental health issues

During these unprecedented times that we are all facing it is more important than ever to be aware of mental health and have access to the support that is available.

The majority of people in the UK are suffering from higher levels of anxiety and depression than ever before. This week is national mental health awareness week and there is a lot of useful information, support and help available to people. The most important message is to take time out to take care of yourself and ask for help or support, additionally, we need to be mindful of people around us and look at providing support to them if they are struggling.

Creating a supportive culture, understanding mental health issues and encouraging open communication promotes wellbeing. It is well known that if people are able to talk openly in the knowledge that they will be listened to with empathy and understanding, they are more likely to open up which in turn means that support, guidance and signposting can be put in place to support them.

During this time of lockdown, different ways of working and added pressures may trigger heightened anxiety levels.

It is good to talk, and it is ok to not be ok.

The current climate has highlighted the fact that each and every one of us need some kind of support throughout our lives, some of this support is with normal routines that have been interrupted for example people not having that cup of tea and chat with colleagues at work.

We are all like pressure cookers, some of us can let off a little steam without even noticing, others hold on to it until it gets too much and explodes.

It is apparent that men struggle to talk and they have a higher suicide rate than the rest of the population which is why it is important that we encourage everyone to talk without the fear and stigma which has historically been associated with mental health ill-health. Sometimes we all need that extra support.

The earlier a manager becomes aware that a team member is experiencing mental ill-health, the sooner steps can be taken to prevent it from becoming more serious and provide support to help them during this period.

A manager should never make assumptions, but signs of mental ill-health can include:

  • changes in usual behaviour, mood or how they interact with colleagues
  • changes in the standard of their work or focus on tasks
  • appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and reduced interest in tasks they previously enjoyed
  • changes in appetite and/or increase in smoking and drinking
  • increase in sickness absence and/or turning up late to work.

Not everyone who experiences mental ill-health will exhibit obvious signs, so, it is important for a manager to regularly ask team members ‘how they are doing’ and create an environment where staff feel able to be open and honest about how they are feeling.

There are many other useful resources which can be utilised to support people who are struggling. Mind launched their  #SpeakYourMind campaign this week, encouraging us to reach out to someone who needs a friend with a positive message or share with them your own tips for coping to make sure they don’t have to face this pandemic alone.

Mental Health Awareness is not just about this one week, it is ongoing so in these worrying times, look after yourself and those around you.

#mentalhealthawarenessweek #kindness

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