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Supporting Mental Wellness In The Workplace

20 June 2022

Mental Health Is Universal

Mental health and wellness affects all of us, wherever we are on the mental health spectrum. Whether living with a mental illness diagnosis that takes consistent management, struggling with periods of difficulty, or occupying a space of occasional mild stressors, we can all benefit from awareness and understanding of mental health. In feeling equipped to deal with mental health issues in an effective, compassionate, and non-judgmental way, we allow ourselves to be greater supportive allies to those around us, and gentler with ourselves in understanding our needs as individuals.

For many of us, our workplaces are major parts of our lives – we spend substantial amounts of our time there, rely on our places of work for financial stability, and develop relationships with our colleagues. Playing such a big part in our lives, our workplaces can also greatly affect our mental wellbeing – a positive and supportive space can mean we feel we enjoy a good quality of life all round, whilst a toxic or negative environment can see us struggling with poor mental health. Knowing how to make our offices healthy environment our mental wellness, and how to support those we work alongside who may be struggling, is essential to looking after ourselves, and one another.

What Can Poor Mental Health Look Like?

From chronic work-based stress or anxiety to chronic conditions such as depression, schizophrenia or BPD, mental health, illness, and wellness can look and feel very different depending on diagnosis, environment, and individual experience. However, almost everyone will experience some kind of mental health struggle in their lives, whether it carries a diagnosis or not – research from the Mental Health Foundation indicates that one in six people in the United Kingdom experience the symptoms of a mental health problem in any given week. As such, it’s essential to understand the mental health struggles are common, normal, and that supporting and listening to one another’s individual needs is a must in supporting those around us and providing more positive and helpful environments where we can all thrive, at home and at work.

The range is broad, but some common indicators of a need for support with your mental health could be:

· Feeling unable to get on with your everyday life

· Irritability or changes in your sleep or eating habits

· Strained relationships with those around you

· Lack of motivation or feeling overwhelmed

· Sudden changes in mood or outbursts of emotion

· Seeing, hearing, or smelling things that it appears no one else is experiencing

· Intrusive thoughts

· Thoughts or plans of suicide

How To Create A Supportive Workplace Environment for Mental Health

Make Space To Talk

Talking up about your own mental health struggles, checking in on colleagues, and helping to create a workplace environment where people can feel safe talking about their struggles is essential to creating a positive workplace when it comes to mental wellness.

While some people may feel more comfortable doing this than others, simply creating an open environment can help people open up over time. Managers should create respectful, private spaces for employees to talk one on one if needed, and ideally designate HR professionals who are fully equipped to support people struggling with their emotional health.

Create A Sense of Community

Whilst we may not get on with everyone we work with and don’t have a choice in our colleagues, creating a sense of friendship and community amongst those you share an office with can help people feel supported and part of something bigger, minimising feelings of alienation and loneliness that can exacerbate mental health struggles.

With a good sense of office community, you can also create events to share together to relax and unwind – from a staff away day to after work drinks or dinner. This can help everyone release emotions, feel calmer and more resilient. Shared experience brings everyone together and helps us feel seen, heard, and able to explore how we feel and what we need from others.

Recognise Achievements

Celebrating team and individual achievements and creating space to work on things you are good at can boost self-esteem and improve self-confidence. Understanding our individual capabilities and celebrating overcoming challenges nurtures a positive self-image and reinforces resilience in dealing with life’s challenges, making us better equipped to look after ourselves in times of struggle.

When we are stressed, it can be easy to forget our talents or achievements, and so making time to reflect on them as well as recognising and celebrating them in others can help us all nurture a more positive workplace environment. If you struggle with a positive outlook at work and get overwhelmed by stress, it could help to “sandwich” your daily tasks, with things you find more difficult or less enjoyable worked on in-between your more preferred tasks or projects you feel you excel in. This can help you gently manage your self-esteem, improve mental health resilience, and create a wider positive environment for mental wellness in the workplace.

Get Educated

Understanding of mental health is always changing, and as we explored before there can be plenty of misconceptions around mental illness. Ensuring you and your team are well informed, educated, and supported around mental illness, health, and how to support one another in the workplace is essential.

Explore options for in-office and away day training, and ensure all teams are aware of their obligations to one another, and the support that your company offers for to support mental health. Valuing our differences and individual needs ensures we can all get the most from our workplace. Including mental health in inclusion and diversity strategies, and ensuring your business creates opportunities to continually explore mental wellness will go a long way to nurturing a positive and supportive workplace environment.