Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 – Chara Anaxagora

When I received the email from the JLD looking for blogs related to mental health, I instantly thought: Of course I’ll write something, everyone needs to speak up about mental health!

Apart from the fact that most people work for approximately 40 years, we also work for more than half of our lives – in fact we spend more time in our workplace than we do with family and friends. Shouldn’t this be a primary consideration when it comes to the amount of understanding our workplaces have in relation to mental health?

“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.” Even from a pure business strategy perspective, it is of underlying importance that employers appreciate that the way they care for and handle mental wellbeing will influence the quality of employee’s work, the delivery of a better service and even employee retention. Happy and content employees make a good company and if you remove them from the equation, no amount of good clients can save it.

Millennials reached adulthood in a less certain time in terms of jobs, settling and planning ahead. With this in mind, I would say we millennials set happiness and wellbeing as a high priority. Being an ambitious generation, we want our jobs to complement our happiness and wellbeing but to achieve this employers need to be flexible and understand that we all are complex human beings; if we underperform or appear to be unhappy, the source of the issue is not always as shallow as others think or, equally, what we might try to present.

It’s easy to victimise employees, blame them for lower-quality performance and even initiate disciplinary proceedings against them instead of understanding that they might need help. However, it’s easier to be supportive, to preserve wellbeing and to offer help when the right procedures are in place.

A very interesting common practice in the USA is for firms to recruit employee counsellors. Employees can talk freely, without any suggestion that they have work-related issues which require escalation. It is understandable that this requires a shift of culture and investment, but surely those workplaces which promote mental health support, encourage people to speak up and put policies and processes in place which provide for such circumstances, would stand out for the better.

Mental health workshops, wellbeing days, self-care support and advice are, amongst others, items that can easily be added to the agenda of a firm interested in improving their employees’ wellbeing.

Mental health issues can be caused by a variety of issues – biological factors or life experiences such as trauma, abuse or loss. It can happen to anyone at any time. And if we as professionals change our mind set to consider that everyone might be fighting a battle we know nothing about, we are in for the start of a new era when it comes to better workplace conditions and talking about mental health.