World Mental Health Day has come around again and with it a timely reminder to keep an eye out for the wellbeing of our colleagues at work.
Recognised by the World Health Organisation every year on 10th October, the aims of World Mental Health Day (WMHD) are to raise “awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.”
This year, the World Federation for Mental Health set the World Mental Health Day theme as 'Make Mental Health and Well-Being for All a Global Priority'. However, whilst this is a global ambition, it is often those closest to us that we can help the most and this frequently includes our work colleagues.
With most of us spending around 45 to 50 years at work, it is not unlikely that we will all be hit by some sort of traumatic event during that time.
Marriage breakdowns, bereavement and severe illness are just some of the crises we may face along the way: events that can often lead to severe depression, anxiety and a host of other mental issues.
Just as we may look to some of our colleagues to talk through the upset or pick up on signs that we need help, our own colleagues might need the same from us.
Whilst we might not be best equipped to help to any great degree, just the fact that we take notice, raise concerns or simply listen to our colleagues can be an important catalyst to getting them to seek professional help, should they need it.
However, approaching a work colleague that you feel is suffering from poor mental health can be tricky. Get it wrong and you can cause real distress and affect your working relationship. Fail to say anything at all and problems can spiral, which can have a negative impact on the employee and the business.
Additionally, it's important for employers to be clued up on how to support employees returning to work after mental health leave. This involves conducting a return-to-work interview and providing encouragement to them as they settle back into working.
How World Mental Health Day can help
If you are concerned about broaching the subject of a colleague’s anxiety, depression or other concerning behaviour, World Mental Health Day provides a great opportunity to talk about mental health in general and offer guidance on how to get help if you are struggling.
If you don’t feel able to talk to your colleague directly, you could suggest to your boss that they promote awareness of World Mental Health Day at work by holding a Tea & Talk event. Tea & Talk is the Mental Health Foundation’s annual national fundraising event, which takes place on or around World Mental Health Day, but which you can actually hold any day of the year. All you need to do is gather together a group of work colleagues, put on the kettle and invite them to make a donation to the Mental Health Foundation.
At the same time, you can hand out advice leaflets on how to maintain good mental health and where to go should you need professional advice. Whilst this information can be passed on to anyone that your colleagues know that might need help, it will of course prove useful to anyone wanting to deal with their own mental health issues.
To support this event, you can find a host of mental health advice and download a free Tea & Talk Pack on the Mental Health Foundation website.
Of course, this sort of event can be very useful for raising general awareness about mental health at work. However, if you do have a strong relationship with a work colleague that you are concerned about then the direct personal touch should not be overlooked.
Even if you don’t have the skills to get them back to that positive, healthy place they need to be, just being a good friend in difficult times can make a huge difference.
As part of The Agilio Software group, myhrtoolkit is taking part in Agilio Jabber this week; a place where small groups of staff from different departments come together over Teams for a general chat. Conversations can be about absolutely anything. What you did at the weekend….sharing hobbies….upcoming holidays….even what you are having for dinner! Coming together to have a chat can be extremely helpful for people’s mental health and provides the opportunity to get to know each other better.
How to improve employee mental health
Written by Fiona Sanderson
Fiona is Marketing Manager at myhrtoolkit. Her areas of expertise include HR systems, productivity, employment law updates, and creating HR infographics.