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Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace

Mental Health Awareness is a big factor in tackling mental health issues overall.

Our Director, Mathew Bewley has recently spoken out about mental health awareness and his experiences. He has also shared some helpful advice on how to support those affected in the workplace.

Take a look at how the interview went here or view the interviews on YouTube here.

Why is good mental health important in the workplace?

Mathew Bewley Mental Health Awareness

“Well good mental health is important in and out of the workplace. It just leads to a much better quality of life. So things like with your relationships and work colleagues, but your friends and your family and any loved ones. Good mental health will also lead to achieving any goals or aspirations you have. You’ll just be much happier and much more positive in your general being day to day.”

Has poor mental health ever affected you?

“It has…I’ve suffered from different levels of poor mental health over a number of years. When I was in school, I had different levels, maybe trying to fit in at certain times was sometimes difficult.

When I started getting into adult life that I found quite difficult. And it was only later on in life that when I actually started to seek out help; that I realised I suffer from anxiety, which then led to depression. Some of it was down to stresses at work. But it was a combination of that and things going on in my personal life, maybe things that I had been at fault for but hadn’t dealt with particularly well. That really I’d bottled up and kept to myself and over a period of time had built up. The level of anxiety which led to depression which then basically led to me considering and planning on taking my own life.

My fiance was a huge rock for me at the time and stood by me, work again a lot of my colleagues and fellow directors really supported me. And what I realised was, once I had opened up about the way I was feeling and some of the thoughts and the really low points and low moods; there was a lot of people out there who really wanted to support me.”

What are the signs to look out for in employees who might be struggling with their mental health?

“Well the signs are so difficult to spot, the problem you’ve got is mental health and poor mental health affects people in lots of different ways and those people will react in different ways in how they are dealing with their poor mental health.

My experience with it…I would say I know a lot about how it feels and the things that you go through. And I’ve had the experience, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been able to spot it in friends family or work colleagues.

Some of the things you can do and you maybe might spot are…you’ll see changes in peoples behaviour. It could be they start snapping at people, they could be quite quiet and then they start snapping and reacting badly to certain situations.

I think it’s about looking out for those sorts of things. Sometimes it could go the other way, some people might overcompensate. They are quite quiet then all of a sudden they are more chatty or if you are speaking to them they are talking quickly where they used to be calm and collected because they are nervous or anxious for instance. The key is understanding who people are and then looking out for changes.

One of the other things you can do as a company is, look at sickness or absence records.

If you’ve had someone who has been working with you for a decent period of time and their sickness record has always been good and over space of over 2,3,6 months that sickness record declines but you’ve not seen any behaviour or characteristic change in them that might also be another reason that something might not be quite right and something going on. It always worth keeping that in mind and monitoring that if you think there might be an issue.”

What can you do to help someone in the office who might be struggling with their mental health?

“If you have spotted someone who maybe has had a change in their personality and you approached them and they then start to communicate with you…basically you are there to listen and not to judge. And that’s so important. Let them know that everything will be okay, particularly in a work environment and you’re somebody’s line manager. The business, yourself will support them through this and they are doing the right thing.

Its things like will an alteration in working hours help or if the persons got too much work for a period of time, can you reduce that level of work down? It might be something simple that the person hasn’t been trained or needs extra training on how to do something. Its really about understanding what that person is saying to you…so then when you look to give them support, you are giving that person what they need. Which ultimately is going to alleviate what the issues are.

The person’s poor mental health might not be related to work and might be something in their personal life that is having an impact on work.

At that stage, you might decide to encourage appropriate professional help. Have they been to speak to the doctor or GP, have they ever considered counselling?

The other thing you can do is encourage other supports. Its anything that between the two of you can potentially come up with. It could be identifying things that the person who is struggling enjoys but maybe has stopped doing. I always find, well certainly in my experience, when you’re suffering from poor mental health, I stopped doing the things I enjoyed.

The other thing you can do as well is, check back.  Make sure you’ve made an appointment with that person in a week or two weeks just to see how that person is doing and if there has been an improvement in their mental health. ”

Why is mental health training important?

“For me, the pace of the world and the working world especially just seems to be increasing. Stress now is the number one reason why people are likely to be off work and off sick. So what we need to do is look at how we address that; I think training is key to reducing why people are off work due to poor mental health.

Training is important as well to reduce stigma around poor mental health. At the moment, poor mental health isn’t really seen at the same level as someone’s physical health. I feel a good example of that is if someone said to you that they were going to the doctor for the flu or a heavy cold or might be using an inhaler for asthma you wouldn’t think anything of it. But if someone told you that they were taking antidepressants or seeing a counsellor for suicidal thoughts you might think differently.

With training, we can raise awareness and that’s so important. At some point in our lifetime, one in four of us will suffer from a poor mental health issue. That’s a huge number of people that at some point in their life may be struggling with their mental health. So we need to raise awareness around the different types of mental health; so ultimately if we spot someone suffering from poor mental health we can do something about it. But its also so important that if we can raise awareness within people who are suffering from poor mental health they may go and seek out the support they need. ”


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