Mental Health at Work
In the last few years awareness of mental health issues has grown, and rightly so. We are putting more in to looking after our own mental well-being, and we have become more aware of signs that people around us might be suffering – although many people still suffer in silence.
An estimated 1 in 6 adults have experienced a 'common mental disorder' like depression or anxiety in the past week.
Official numbers from the UK’s Office of National Statistics showed more than 17 million working days were lost to mental health related conditions in 2018. When you compare this to research from Milkround that revealed 49% of people did not feel that they could take a mental health sick day from work, even when needed, there are likely to be millions more people suffering in silence every day.
Looking at some different industries in more details, there are more worrying figures:
- In construction where workers are surrounded by signs to protect their health and safety, mental health is suffering. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, but male site workers arethree timesmore likely to commit suicide than the average male in the UK.
- In agriculture, farmers are often isolated, working long hours under huge financial pressure. Research from Yellow Wellies revealed that four out of five farmers under 40 years of age believe that mental health is the biggest hidden problem facing farmers today.
- Studies by Mind found that 30% of illnesses in the transport and logistics industry are mental health-related – although this is self-reported so may be higher.
How can you tell if someone at work has a mental health issue?
Often there will be signs that something isn’t right. You might notice a colleague has become withdrawn or lost in thought. Their mood may be more erratic, for example unusually agitated, tearful or even emotionless. You might notice a change in their appetite or weight, or if they haven’t been sleeping.
However, there is no hard and fast rule of how to spot something is wrong because we’re all different, but it is important to respond sensitively if someone does need your help.
How to help
If you suspect someone at work or in your home life needs help, start by simply asking that person how you can help.
If they are open to talking, set some time aside where there are no distractions, and let them share as much or as little as the wish to. Talking about mental health can take a lot of courage, so they shouldn’t feel pressured.
Unless you are a trained practitioner, you shouldn’t make assumptions about what the issue might be. You are there to listen and support them. Try not to grill them, instead use open-ended questions, such as ‘Tell me how you are feeling’ instead of ‘Are you depressed?’
Ask them if they want help finding the right support or to accompany them to the doctors. Let them make that decision on how they want to get the help they need.
When you or someone you know needs help
There are some incredible organisations that can offer help and support. Locally we have Shropshire Mind who offer support to those affected by mental and emotional distress, and their families. We are proud to be supporting Shropshire Mind over the next five years.
Some useful numbers:
Shropshire Mind 01743 368 647
Mind (UK) 0300 123 3393
The Rethink Mental Illness Advice Service (England) 0300 5000 927
Hafal (Wales) 01792 816 600
Samaritans116 123(free 24-hour helpline)
More information is available here.