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Why mental health matters
Date of Issue: Wednesday, 9 February, 2022
Time to Talk day on 3 February reminded us all of the importance of mental health and why we need to communicate about it in the workplace. So, we wanted to share this podcast (with transcript) by James Sussex, clinical team lead at IIRSM Partner Workplace Options, on why Time to Talk remains such a relevant initiative.
Hi everyone and thanks for joining me – I’m James and I’m a clinical team lead in the UK. During the pandemic, we have seen a huge increase in utilization of mental health services in general, and presentations with stress linking to COVID both indirectly and directly. I’m here today to talk a little about mental health in the workplace, why it’s so important right now and to offer some reflections on the view moving forward.
In recent years, mental health advocacy has become one of the most effective and promising strategies in recognizing, defining and taking action towards positive mental health and wellness. Time to Talk day is recognized as the current biggest mental health conversation in the UK, and is set aside for communities, workplaces, families, and friends to come together, and talk and listen to all conversations pertaining to mental health. Taking place on the 3rd of February 2022, the campaign runs throughout the United Kingdom and is spearheaded by Mind and Rethink Illness in conjunction with Co-op in England. It is an opportunity to create supportive communities through conversations with friends, colleagues, and families on mental health.
According to health statistics, only one in every four people is likely to be more comfortable to open up about their mental health. One of the major factors that continue to fuel the rapid rise in mental health problems has been stigma. Positive and supportive conversations are an effective way to create an atmosphere where stigma around mental health is reduced. Additionally, Time to Talk offers an opportunity for people to feel more empowered to seek help and support whenever deemed necessary.
This new age has proven to be one with higher risks for mental health issues than several decades ago. Mental health definitely matters in 2022 more than ever. Currently, we are facing a new set of life stressors and problems that are making many people prone to mental health issues. There are several reasons why mental health matters more than ever in 2022. Not least, the COVID pandemic has brought significant changes to how people work. The push for people to work from home in a bid to reduce the spread of the virus has come along with several ramifications. Recent research has found that hybrid and remote workers are suffering from mental and physical health concerns more than those in offices. Those working from home feel more isolated, and new research indicates that at least 7 out of every 10 workers feel this way.
Additionally, the hybrid work environment has impacted collaboration more than ever before. Workers are assigned tasks and expected to complete them within a stipulated time while requiring the same productivity levels as before – and in some cases, more. With limited collaboration and a lack of synchronous face to face communication, workers have reported more work pressure, anxiety, and stress. Tough economic conditions coupled with the loss of loved ones make this year one to watch with regards to mental health. Research by global health organizations shows that isolation, bereavement, anxiety, and an overall sense of loss are major effects of COVID-19, rapidly triggering mental health problems. Moreover, these have been found to exacerbate existing mental health conditions.
The mental health status in Europe still signals the need for more advocacy and strategies. Numerous studies have been done to assess the psychological toll that the pandemic has had on health workers, and showed high levels of insomnia, depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and distress among people in the United Kingdom. The rise in mental health problems in Europe has been largely faulted on the pandemic and post-COVID effects. The worsening mental health situation is also depicted by UNICEF in research published in 2021 that shows the current increasing rate of mental illness. For example, mental health illnesses have increased among young people by about 9 percent after COVID-19. Cumulatively, suicide is still among the top 5 causes of death among both young people and adults across Europe. The prevalence has also risen by about 11 percent among workers especially health workers (Hummel et.al. 2021). The United Kingdom has the highest prevalence rate of people suffering from at least one mental health problem (30 percent).
Lack of mental health communication remains one of the major mental health barriers for employees and organizations. It is really crucial that we break the barriers to mental health discourse in the workplace to instill a culture of positive dialogue around mental health among employees in the long term. Employees need to feel comfortable to share about mental health issues among them at any given time. Breaking this barrier is also important for employees to embrace mental health diversity among one another.
It is through awareness that we can improve mental health and promote positive wellbeing. Breaking barriers such as stigmatization, lack of education and insufficient mental support we create a leeway towards organizations where employees have high self-consciousness on their mental health. Employees who are comfortable talking about their mental health and seeking help are more productive than when barred by several factors such as a workplace environment that does encourage these conversations. There is a need for all organizations especially in the current age to embrace efforts that scale up mental health. Breaking barriers to mental health discourse is one of these efforts that generally signal an organization’s sensitivity to workers’ wellbeing. Encouraging open and honest conversations at the workplace, considering mental health days under sickness absences, proactively training employees to notice and respond to a change in the behavior of the fellow workers, and minding the language around mental health in the workplace are all key starting points. Likewise, being proactive and offering health and psychoeducation around, for example, ways of becoming resilient and managing stress to employees can be invaluable.
Throughout these challenging times, you may have heard people within your organization talking about “going back”, “returning to how things were”, or “getting back to normal”. But is it possible to go back, to return, or to slip back into how things were before – and do we even want to? Maybe there is only going forward – and not just into new working paradigms. Perhaps this solemn moment of reflection poses an opportunity to consider what mental health is, why it is important, and how we can take better action towards championing employee mental health – for our organizations, for each other, for ourselves, and most importantly, for good. It’s Time to Talk.
Workplace Options helps employees balance their work, family, and personal needs to become healthier, happier, and more productive, both personally and professionally. The company’s world-class employee support, effectiveness, and wellbeing services provide information, resources, referrals, and consultation on a variety of issues ranging from dependent care and stress management to clinical services and wellness programs. To learn more visit www.workplaceoptions.com.
Disclaimer: This document is intended for general information only. It does not provide the reader with specific direction, advice, or recommendations. You may wish to contact an appropriate professional for questions concerning your particular situation.