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Being mindful at work

On World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2018, 44’s Bryan Jones looks at what can be done to support colleagues in the workplace, and why it’s always worth asking twice.

“If there’s one thing I hate,” piped up my delightfully opinionated teenage son, “it’s people who self-diagnose with mental health conditions.

“You know, dad, they say they’ve got post-traumatic stress disorder after their team lost at the weekend, or they’re having an anxiety attack ‘cos they haven’t quite finished their homework and it needs to be in tomorrow.”

“Do you get that a lot?” I asked.

“Yep. Happens all the time.”

One in four affected

I’m no expert, but I guess it makes sense that the growing awareness around mental health conditions means people are examining their own wellbeing and asking: ‘How well am I doing – really?’

My 14-year-old may have a point about too much self-diagnosis, but – seriously son – the research suggests one in four adults experience an issue with their mental health at some point, and an estimated 70 million working days are lost every year as a result.

It’s a real challenge. Figures show the proportion of people suffering severe mental health issues has risen from 6.9 per cent in 1993 to 9.3 per cent in 2014.

So what’s being done?

Mental health ‘first aiders’

There’s a growing campaign to persuade employers to not only talk about mental health at work and raise awareness of the issues, but also to do something practical to help.

Campaigners want businesses to run mental health first aid courses, and appoint mental health first aid champions. They’re urging the Government to make it a legal necessity – like having medical first aid support at work.

Mental health first aid courses teach people how to spot signs of common mental health issues like anxiety, stress and depression in a colleague. The workshops advise people what to say (and what not to say) and what is appropriate to recommend in terms of further support.

Sounds like a great idea.

Huffington Post blogger Brogan Driscoll, who is trained as a mental health first aider, says: “If you cut your finger at work, or slip and hit your head in a shopping centre, chances are you’ll be greeted by a first aider who will assess the situation and administer the appropriate care. When the issue concerns mental health rather than the physical, people are often left not knowing what to do or who to turn to…”

Ask twice

Most of us will either have had some kind of mental health issue, or will know someone who has.

One piece of advice I like is from Carl, who’s posted on the website for Time to Change, a group fighting to end mental health discrimination.

He says that if you think a colleague might be having a dip in the condition of their mental health – if they’re struggling at work, or appear under too much stress – find ways to ask TWICE about how they are doing.

Carl says: ‘If someone asks you how you’re doing, how often do you tell the truth? Usually, you’ll say ‘I’m fine’.’

Finding a way to ask them again – perhaps saying ‘Are you sure?’ or ‘You know where I am if you need me…’ – gives them the opportunity to take the bait if they want to open up a bit.

It’s great, simple advice, and something we can all use on World Mental Health Day as we look out for our colleagues, friends and workmates who might be struggling.

If you need more help, guidance, advice and information, the Time to Change website is a great place to start.

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