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.”
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.
It is this focus on providing support on an individual level, or as the World Federation of Mental Health have defined it ‘psychological first aid’, that is the theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day.
However, approaching a work colleague that you feel is suffering from poor mental health can be very tricky.
Get it wrong and you can cause real distress and sour your working relationship. Fail to say anything at all and you might have to sit and watch your workmate spiral into serious difficulties.
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 can provide the perfect solution
That is because 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 ostensibly be handed out to be passed on to anyone that your colleagues know that might need help, this information 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.
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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.