Affecting as many as 1 in 4 adults every year in the UK and 1 in 5 in the US, mental health problems such as stress, anxiety, and depression are the invisible issues we still won’t talk about. At work we put on a brave face, a stiff upper lip, but inside 25% of us are suffering, often in silence.
For companies the financial cost of ignoring and not supporting employees who are suffering mental health issues is enormous. Particularly if you consider the fact that they are the number one cause of workplace absence, let alone a direct hit on productivity. The UK alone loses 105 million working days each year due to stress, costing UK employers 1.24bn!!
Why don’t we talk about mental health?
So why do we have such a hard time talking about these problems when they affect so many?
I believe the main reason is that we, as parents, often don’t talk openly to our children about mental health issues and the importance of a ‘problem shared’. We simply don’t educate our kids, in fact most of us avoid talking about such ‘negative’ issues altogether and the result of this is a society of adults who feel totally unprepared and unequipped when the issue arises.
Only the other week, I spoke with a client who recently lost a parent, took some time off on compassionate leave, only to come back to work still clearly bereft, but rather than receiving a full display of support, he felt that his colleagues actively avoided talking about his experience. Interestingly he also told me that until this point in his life, he would have done exactly the same thing to one of his colleagues if the shoe had been on the other foot. Not because he didn’t care, but because he didn’t feel comfortable talking about such a sensitive issue.
Let’s remove the stigma around mental health
What I’d like to see is the stigma around mental health completely removed, so that if and when we ourselves feel that we are suffering, which can happen any time in life, we don’t feel that we have to pretend that everything is fine, when it isn’t. I’d also like to see us being braver to offer people support when they are going through a tough time in their lives.
So it was great to see the young royal family leading the Heads Together campaign at this year’s London Marathon, aptly named the ‘Mental Health Marathon’. Their mission, quite simply, to help us all be far more comfortable talking about mental health.
Protecting our mental health
The other thing we need to talk about is how we can protect our mental health and as companies what can we do to look after the mental wellbeing of our people? Next week (8th – 14th May) here in the UK, the Mental Health Foundation are hosting Mental Health Awareness Week, an event run every year since 2000. The emphasis this year is less about why so many people are living with mental health problems, but rather why so few of us are truly thriving with good mental health.
As Andrew Kinder, Chief Psychologist and Immediate Past Chair of EAPA (Employees Assistance Professionals Association) puts it ‘Our digital working lives are ever-faster, more mobile and flexible. They are also more demanding, pressurised and dependent on resilience. The issue for HR is whether the workplace culture, management and its support services have kept pace with all the changes?”
High levels of resilience are lacking
From my experience in the work that I do as a coach, it is exactly this high level of resilience that is simply lacking for most people. Add to this a world that doesn’t switch off, colleagues that email you on your weekend and demands bombarding you from all angles, the ability to thrive is becoming a major issue for individuals and companies alike. It is for this reason that I love to help people build the steely resilience they need to thrive, to avoid burn-out and to protect their well-being
The Heads Together campaign aims to change the national conversation on mental health and well-being. The Mental Health Foundation is urging us to talk about why so few of us are fully thriving. Let’s make this Mental Health Awareness week a time to commit to prioritising our mental wellbeing and the start of many more conversations on mental health
So just where do we start to build the steely resilience we need to thrive and how can we support our teams?
If you’d like to find out more about how Emma can help you and your team, then please get in touch.