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Workplace Health | Week 4 - Mental Health Part 2

Workplace Health | Week 4 - Mental Health Part 2

Thursday 5th March 2020
Lewis Fletcher

Why don't people talk about mental health?

Worldwide, awareness of mental health is increasing but even so we still live in a world where people who suffer from mental health problems face discrimination and can therefore face challenges seeking the help that they need. Because of this, many people who are experiencing distress try and keep their feelings hidden because they are afraid of the response which they will receive from other people

In the workplace, the fear of discrimination and the feeling of shame are among some of the top reasons people gave when surveyed for not telling their colleagues about their mental health problems. A method of tackling this situation is by creating workplace cultures where people can be themselves. In turn, this makes it easier for people to speak about mental health concerns without fear and therefore it is easier for them to reach out and seek help when they need it the most.

The law

There is a wide range of legal rights that protect our mental health at work. These rights range from basic human such as the freedom of expression and freedom of association. To the health and safety legislation that keeps us safe from hazards. These hazards include psychological hazards.

The Equality Act (2010) in England, Scotland and Wales and the Disability Discrimination Act (1995, as amended) in Northern Ireland

Most of the people who suffer from ongoing mental health problems meet the definition of disability in the Equality Act (2010) and the Disability Discrimination Act (1995, as amended). This means that people who have mental health problems are protected from discrimination and harassment and are therefore entitled to reasonable adjustments to adapt their job or work.

In order to be considered disabled under equality legislation, a person must have an impairment that has "a substantial, adverse and long-term impact on their ability to carry out everyday tasks". The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland provides information about the different protections for people with mental health problems in Northern Ireland.

How to look after your mental health at work

1. Talk about your feelings - by talking about your feelings you can help yourself to maintain your mental health and be able to deal with times when you are feeling troubled. It isn't a sign of weakness to talk about your feelings, its part of taking charge of your wellbeing and doing what you can to stay healthy.
It can be hard to talk about your feelings when you are at work. If you have colleagues you can talk to, or a manager who asks how you are at supervision sessions it can help a lot.
You can talk about your feelings by identifying someone who you feel comfortable with and who will support you.

2. Keeping active - By exercising regularly you will notice a boost in your self esteem as well as an increase in your concentration, sleep and also the fact that you will look and feel better. Experts say that you should do about 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week. You can do this by making a physical activity which you enjoy a part of your day.

3. Eating well - The food which we eat can have an affect both on how we feel immediately and in the long term. A diet which is good for your physical health is also good for your mental health. Try and ensure that you eat regular meals as well drink plenty of water. You can do this by planning for mealtimes at work and brining food from home or if you buy lunch, choose a healthy option.

4. Drink Sensibly - One of the reasons that we drink alcohol is to change our mood. Some people turn to drink to deal with the feeling of fear or loneliness but drinking alcohol only has a temporary effect. Generally, most people don't drink alcohol at work, however most of us recognise the pattern of drinking more at the weekend or in an evening when work is hard going.

5. Keep in touch - A key part of mental health is relationships. In the workplace we don't always have a choice who we work with and when situations occur such as not getting on with clients, colleagues or managers, tension begins to occur. Try and maintain your friendships as well as your family relationships, even in times such as when work is intense. This is because it is important to have a work - life - balance and experts believe that loneliness may be as bad for our health as smoking and obesity.

6. Ask for help - This one explains itself really. Your employer may have an employee assistance programme. These are services which are confidential and can be assessed for free without your work finding out. A HR service or line manager may also be able to help you to access occupational health support. However, the first port of call should be your GP. Your GP may suggest ways in which your family can help you or they may refer you to a specialist or another part of the health services. They may also be able to refer you to a councillor.

7. Take a break- A key thing that can be very good for your mental health could be a change of pace. This change of pace could be something as simple as a five-minute pause from what you are doing, reading a book or listening to a podcast during your commute, a half hour lunch break at work or even a weekend to explore somewhere new. These few minutes are called "me time"

8. Do something that you are good at - What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? What did you love doing in the past? Enjoying yourself can help beat stress. Doing an activity, you enjoy probably means you're good at it, and achieving something boosts your self-esteem. Concentrating on a hobby, like gardening or doing crosswords, can help you forget your worries for a while and can change your mood. It's OK to be good at your job - when you feel stressed, it can be easy to forget your talents, or fall foul of imposter syndrome (where you feel like a fraud, or that you don't deserve your successes).

9. Accept who you are - We're all different. It's much healthier to accept that you're unique than to wish you were more like someone else. Feeling good about yourself boosts your confidence to learn new skills, visit new places and make new friends. Good self-esteem helps you cope when life takes a difficult turn. Be proud of who you are. Recognise and accept the things you may not be good at, but also focus on what you can do well. If there's anything about yourself you would like to change, are your expectations realistic? If they are, work towards the change in small steps.

10. Care for others - Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. Working life can provide opportunities to care for others - contributing through vocational jobs like nursing or care work can be hugely significant for mental health. In most jobs, you can choose to be there for colleagues - either as a team-mate, or as a line manager, when strategies like coaching and training are good ways to support others.