How bolstering mental health at work can do more than we may realise
By Marcus Watson
In the early hours of a cold February morning, a team of night workers were working near a railway station when they noticed what appeared to be a female reveller waiting for a train, looking worse for wear. As they went over to investigate and offer help, the young girl looked too young to be out alone and was soaking wet. It was clear to them that she was in a serious condition and suffering from hypothermia. They acted immediately, alerted the emergency services, trying to keep her warm in the meantime. As they later came to understand, the teenage girl had attempted suicide by walking into the freezing sea before having a change of heart.
On that exact same night, another team spotted a man in a stationary car, engine running, sadly trying to end his life. Once again, the team investigated and realised something was wrong. They acted quickly and pulled the man out of his car before seeking assistance. The man was suffering from PTSD.
In both instances, the team saw something odd. These heroes acted selflessly because human instinct told them that it was the right thing to do. This raises the question, if people will step in and help complete strangers, how should companies care for the well-being and mental health of their own colleagues?
The figures are alarming; approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year and 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression, in any given week. Suicide remains the leading cause of death for males aged 35 to 49 years. These are staggering statistics. Fortunately, but belatedly, mental health and well-being are terms which society is beginning to talk about more openly these days.
Our industry must play its part in recognising and tackling these issues, providing support, care and compassion to those people who need it and with whom we work every day. Indeed, it is high time for well-being and mental health to be viewed the same as the health and safety of our bodies. Luckily, there are many things that organisations can do to help, and some of the interventions can be obtained via reputable third-party providers to suit the needs of any organisation. These may include:
- Training staff in mental health first aid
- Providing 24/7 access to an effective and confidential Employee Assistance Programme, giving colleagues access to a range of advice, including face-to-face and telephone counselling
- Providing bespoke interventions with specialist counsellors
- Focusing on mental health in company communications
- Holding fundraising to support and raise awareness for great charities such as Mind and Samaritans
- Promoting ‘Action for Happiness’ initiatives.
Of course, it is not just about having a mental health and well-being programme in place. The most important thing of all perhaps is to talk openly about these very real issues. Let’s remove any stigma.