Pull yourself together…
Is NOT something you should say to anyone suffering from mental health issues however for decades it has been the phrase for many who have been faced with a colleague or loved one suffering from just that.
Mental health is one of the most challenging themes in modern HR. It is sometimes tough for employers to engage with this topic, due to the enduring stigma surrounding mental health issues and the general lack of knowledge around best practice in this area. We’ve all been guilty at some point of doubting someone offering ‘feeling down’ or ‘stressed’ as a reason for failing to live up to what we expected of them. If you’re an employer working with tight deadlines, you might find it easier to understand a broken limb than a broken heart.
But the truth is that mental illness is real, debilitating and something that almost everyone will have to contend with in one way or another.
In the age of Zoom and remote working, employee connection and the sense of belonging that comes from being part of a physical team, is more important than ever, especially for those who struggle with conditions such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse. Job uncertainty, the need to socially distance and isolate or even to furlough, and an impending climate of recession, could worsen the prognosis for those whose mental health is already fragile.
Luckily, mental health is finally becoming acknowledged as a mainstream health problem. After many years where it was rarely spoken about and little understood, high profile campaigns and frank admissions by public figures have made it a talking point.
Online digital media publications have dedicated a lot of content – and rightfully so – to this once-taboo subject because of the large appetite from readers wishing to overcome the barriers that really affect how we live.
People can feel a social stigma in discussing facets of not only their mental health but also their emotional health with employees and managers which is totally understandable:
- no employee wants to give the impression they are overwhelmed or that they cannot handle the job’s responsibilities,
- nor do they want to feel belittled or treated differently due to a personal issue.
- Managers may feel awkward or unqualified to address mental health concerns,
- or they may be worried that they will say or do the wrong thing and create an HR issue.
However, with the global pandemic and widespread change in all areas of our lives have businesses started to make significant moves to restore the balance?
According to the NHS, one in four adults and one in 10 children experience mental illness, and many more of us know and care for people who do.
These stark statistics demonstrate how more than ever it is important that we understand mental illness and have some tools in the “manager toolkit” when it becomes a problem in your workplace.
As our strapline says, ‘Your people are your business” and it’s true. As business owners we need to look after our employees, not just because of the financial implications if we don’t, but if this past year has taught us anything it is that never has it been more important for us to focus on our wellbeing than now, and for managers, this presents an additional challenge of, not only managing their own wellbeing, but also that of the people in their team.
HR can play a key role in creating a mentally healthy work environment. Changing an entire company’s perception on mental health isn’t easy, but with a proper strategy in place, it’s an achievable goal.
For information on how your business can ensure that it is ‘Mental Health ready’ please get in touch…