Oct 8th 2019
In conversation with Unmind: mental health at work
What is mental health
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Having good mental health means you can generally make the most of the opportunities that come your way, make the most of your potential and play a full part in your family, workplace, community and friends. It’s key to living a fulfilling life.
Nick, CEO of Unmind, a B2B workplace wellness platform says, ‘Mental health is something we have for our whole life, every single moment of our life. We move up and down the spectrum of mental health and it’s important to recognise that we all have mental health, all of the time.’
Mental health challenges
Mental health problems affect the way you think, feel and behave. Mental health challenges and disorders have many different signs and symptoms in different people. Many people have mental challenges from time to time but a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function. Such illnesses can make you miserable and cause problems in your daily life.
They can happen to anyone and are common; about a quarter of the population experience some kind of mental health problem in any one year.
Mental health and work
For many of us, work is a major part of our lives. It’s where we spend a lot of our time, where we could have the most contact with other people and where we may make friends. Sometimes work or certain work environments could trigger distress for example, high levels of pressure, or exacerbate stresses we already have, such as personal pressures.
Mental health problems are all too common in the workplace and, to illustrate the extent of the problem, it is the leading cause of sickness absence – the Centre for Mental Health estimates poor mental health costs the UK economy £34.9bn per year in lost productivity, sickness absence and staff turnover.
Mental health problems are common. According to Mind, 48% of workers have experienced a mental health problem in their current job and over half don’t tell anyone. There are multiple reasons for this, with fear of discrimination and feelings of shame amongst the top for people feeling unable to share their emotions with their colleagues. According to Priory research, fewer than three in ten employees would tell their employers about their mental health condition for fear of getting a negative response. There is still a strong social stigma attached to mental illness and people with problems are concerned they will receive discrimination if they open up about the challenges they are facing.
Employers must recognise the role they play in their employees’ lives and recognise that they are under a general obligation to take ‘reasonable care for the health and safety of employees in the workplace‘. This means they have a duty towards employees suffering from mental health issues. Equally, they must realise the general stigmas around mental health and that employees may feel uncomfortable opening up about their problems in the workplace. As stated by Liv from Unmind, ‘Mental health is the number one thing about being a human being, and we need to create workplaces that acknowledge this. Employers need to make it easier for people to speak about mental health at work, without fear of discrimination and it needs to be made easier for people to reach out for help when they need it.’
Factoring in these challenges, there are several changes an employer can make to create a supportive environment that lets employees feel safe enough to share any challenges they may be experiencing.
Read here about how employers can make a more inclusive culture.