Looking at the landscape of the increasing numbers of people experiencing mental health issues in the workplace, several things are clear:
1. Stress, anxiety and depression account for the highest percentage of working days lost due to illness.
2. The numbers are increasing.
3. Consideration by employers towards wellbeing at work can change things for the better.
4. Help is out there.
According to a report published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)1 in late 2018, workload was the number one cause of anxiety, stress and/or depression in the workplace at 44%, while the other 56% was spilt across causes such as lack of managerial support, changes in the workplace and bullying.
According to the HSE report, those working in education, human care and social service activities, and public administration & defence have the highest rates of stress, anxiety and depression, with the education sector coming out at the top, reaching an approximate rate of around 2000 in every 100 thousand people experiencing mental health issues.
The rates of those living with stress and anxiety are increasing. Roles with limited resources due to higher government demands and/or cuts to their sector (such as education, public services and the NHS) are under tremendous amounts of pressure, leading to stress, anxiety and in many cases, long-term depression.
And it’s not simply a social issue. These numbers impact heavily on our economy. The report states that 15.4 million working days were lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18. But wellbeing in the workplace is, by no stretch of the imagination, a lost cause.
For employers, there’s a responsibility to consider the wellbeing of the workforce as a number one priority when it comes to environment, productivity, morale and longevity. Taking an active approach to ensure that the mental health needs of staff are being met is the first step towards changing these statistics for the better. The key is to invest in a thoroughly considered wellbeing policy, whether that involves seminars for management, staff taking part in workshops around mental health in the workplace, and/or engaging with therapeutic and counselling services for ongoing support.
Take care of each other. It sounds simple, right? But sometimes it’s not our priority. We all know that the working environment can present obstacles that put pressure on our mental health. Stressful situations are common, as well as overwhelming workloads and sometimes lack of support from colleagues and managers. But we’re all in it together. In the wider scope, even in the most demanding of roles, we are all human, and we are all doing what we can to live a happy, successful, fulfilling life. So, adopting a mindset of encouragement and support amongst the workforce could be essential when it comes to combatting stress and anxiety. It allows for increased managerial support towards staff, it could reduce the likelihood of bullying amongst the workforce, as well as have a positive, domino-effect on morale.
In the long-term, a strong policy for mental health in the workplace will see a decrease in days lost and an increase in both productivity and staff wellbeing. However, improving staff wellbeing is not just about productivity, it’s generally a decent thing to do.
If you’d like to know more about how you can put your mental health policy into action, give Talk Works a call on 0191 490 9301.
We’re here to help.
WHEN OK ISN’T OK
Everyday we ask each other ‘How are you doing?’, but do we actually pay attention to the response or are we simply expecting the socially acceptable answer – ‘fine’. In a busy society, we are happy to keep this conversation on a basic level – someone asks the question and we respond positively. However, how many times have you said you are fine when you’re not?
Every year more than 6000 people in the UK and the Republic Of Ireland die by suicide, an average of 18 per day1. Globally, 2,191 people die from suicide every day2. Putting this into context, that is one person every 40 seconds, so by the time you finish reading this article another person will have taken their own life.
Identifying that someone is suicidal is difficult, however, there are warning signs to look out for. These can include3:
• lacking energy or appearing particularly tired
• appearing more tearful
• not wanting to talk or be with people
• not wanting to do things they usually enjoy
• a change in routine, such as sleeping or eating more or less than normal
• using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings
• finding it hard to cope with everyday things
• appearing restless and agitated
• reporting that you feel hopeless about the future or that you’ve nothing to look forward to
• not liking or taking care of themselves or feeling they don’t matter
• being un-typically clumsy or accident prone
• becoming withdrawn or losing touch with friends and family
• making preparations, such as sorting a will
• sudden calmness
• feeling like a burden or hopeless
And of course, reporting that they feel suicidal or wish they were no longer here. Any reports of suicidal feelings or thoughts should always be taken seriously and never dismissed.
IF YOU FEEL YOU NEED URGENT HELP OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO DOES CALL 999 OR GO TO YOUR NEAREST A&E DEPARTMENT
WHAT TO DO IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW REQUIRES HELP
Help is always available 24/7:
• Contact the Samaritans on 116 123
• Contact NHS 111
• Speak to someone you trust, this could be a friend, family member or work colleague.
• Make an urgent appointment to see your GP
If you are concerned about someone else, encourage them to talk. It can be difficult to reach out, but the important thing is to start the conversation. For tips on how to start a conversation visit www.samaritans.org/difficultconversations. Find out more about warning signs and ways to help on the NHS website.
So, next time you ask, ‘How are you doing?’, wait for the response and question if what the person is saying feels authentic. Follow it up. Taking a second to check on someone and make them feel like someone cares is always a good thing.