As part of PageGroup’s partnership with Time to Change, Rachel Berry was offered the chance to become an Employee Champion. While the subject of mental health has always been something that she has been passionate about, she has never been compelled to write about it due to a lack of understanding. But through the partnership, Rachel has been able to challenge her own preconceptions and here is what she has learned so far.

1. Mental health can affect anyone

Most have heard that one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year. However as with physical health, everyone has the capacity to develop the issue at any time - just like anyone can break their ankle on their way to work, or be hit by that nasty flu that seems to go around every single winter. Most of us will know how to respond to these situations without confusion or fear of offending, however it doesn’t take an expert to see that there is a sizeable gap in understanding should someone experience panic attacks or symptoms of depression, or even just feeling like they’re not handling things as well as they would be normally.

2. Mental health conversations benefit everyone

If we consider that everyone has mental health, then a positive and open attitude towards it would be of benefit to all, whether they be the one in four UK people that Mind estimates suffer from mental health problems in a year, or the three out of the four that don’t. Even when we take the focus away from the individuals who are suffering from mental health issues, their families and close friends can also bear a significant burden that would benefit from support, especially in the workplace where the wellbeing and therefore performance and productivity of employees are key considerations. 
In the context of the overall diversity agenda, mental health and wellbeing often stands alongside and sometimes separate, to other initiatives relating to gender, sexual orientation, disability and race. If we carry the notion that mental health is a topic for all, promoting openness around mental wellbeing could theoretically go a long way to ensure that a whole organisation benefits from a cohesive and joined up diversity strategy, often contributing to the development of the wider cultural agenda for the organisation.

3. Mental health conversations are not just for managers

It has been clearly established that promoting openness around mental health in the workplace can contribute to the wider diversity and cultural objectives of organisations. However, if there is a benefit for four out of four individuals to talk about mental health, it won’t just fall to managers to start conversations with their teams. While the wellbeing of staff is obviously key for managers, it’s a task for everyone to ensure that anyone who finds themselves with a mental health issue is also supported by their peers and colleagues. The more understanding everyone has, the more opportunities individuals have to open up about their mental health at a more informal level. 

4. Having the conversation 

Despite improving attitudes over the last number of years, mental health is still something that carries a certain stigma which is fuelled by misunderstanding, fear and the innocent notion that it “may not happen to them”. The more we educate and talk about mental health at all stages, the easier we will find it to encourage openness, start conversations and develop engaged and productive workplaces.
Prince Harry has openly talked about his own experiences with mental health, while also acknowledging that unresolved mental health problems often lie at the heart of some of our societies biggest social challenges. In a work context, it could also be at the heart of our biggest organisational challenges, but also one of our most worthwhile and productive solutions.
Like the common cold, there is no ultimate “cure” for mental health problems, however, there is a tangible benefit and responsibility for four out of four us to challenge, support and encourage the conversation.
We should never wait to help out our colleagues and peers – it’s time to boil the kettle, take that walk around the park or whatever you need to do and get the conversation going. If you would like some more discussion around this article or to find out how we can help with your recruitment needs, please contact Rachel Berry at Michael Page Human Resources.
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