We’ve all heard it before…“mental health is just important as physical health”, but why don’t we listen? Sometimes it’s a sense of guilt or feeling ashamed because we think we’ll be judged or treated differently by management or peers. This shouldn’t be the case.
Dealing with mental health in the workplace can be a tricky slope for some organizations, but it’s quite simple – just listen. When someone is struggling, they can often find it difficult to reach out to someone in their company or organisation – especially if the culture doesn’t allow it. Having someone that you feel you can talk to is very important. Now, I don’t mean have a therapy session with a co-worker – but if you’re both up for it, then go for it! It’s very helpful for struggling individuals to feel that they can talk to someone and can find support. This can make such a difference and can be what stops a person from becoming isolated at work.
You have sick days – take them. The term “mental health day” gets used quite a bit. I’m not a fan of this term myself. If you’re having a rough day because of your mental health, take a sick day. If mental health is truly as important as physical health, there shouldn’t be any guilt or fear in doing this. Taking a sick day gives you a chance to recover and relax, just as if you were physically sick, and doesn’t owe an explanation. When you have a cold and overwork yourself, it becomes worse and worse and then it will leave you drained. You may even end up taking more time off sick than if you were to slow down right at the start. The same goes for mental health. If you don’t give your time to recover and keep pushing yourself, it can delay recovery and cause more harm in the long run. ACAS says that “talking about mental health in the workplace can improve workplace morale”. Even simple awareness in the workplace that it’s okay to talk to someone if you are struggling, can relieve pressure because you know the option is there, even if you never have to use it.
Stress is a normal human emotion, and everyone may feel stressed in their roles from time-to-time. When you do begin to feel this way, it’s important to not feel guilty. If you are a part of Senior Leadership, or a Junior learning your role, you should never feel guilty for feeling stressed – even if you know someone higher up from you might be as well. Different roles in companies have different responsibilities and every person has a different stress limit. If you are, find someone in your team you know will support you and find a way to put less pressure on yourself. This could be delegating some of your work off, to taking a full lunch break, or maybe just working from home for a day to not get distracted by people in the office. If you are not the one feeling stressed, make sure to keep an eye out on your colleagues and be proactive in helping them if you can.
Having open conversations about mental health in the workplace helps bring teams closer, allows team members to speak up if they’re struggling, and can help improve the stigma around mental health issues. Struggling does not make you weak, it makes you human. We all need to work together, beat the stigma, and continue to make sure the people in our workplace know their worth (to the company and to the world).
If you or someone you know are struggling or are looking for someone to talk to, please call the Samaritans hotline at 116 123.