By Tiffany Victoria, Assistant Manager at ZEDRA
Mental health is a uniquely personal topic and can often be seen as something you only discuss with your closest family and friends. However, I think it is so important to dismantle the stigma around mental health in the workplace and encourage people to discuss their mental health with colleagues. Let’s face it, most of us spend more time with colleagues than our own families!
The workplace can be a particularly high-pressure environment and there may be some stresses that people only experience at work. Ensuring that the appropriate support framework is available and employees are encouraged to talk honestly about their state of mind is especially important.
How can employers make a difference to employee wellbeing and mental health?
- Identify what specific factors are present in the business that could impact an employee’s wellbeing or mental health – is resourcing a problem? Are employees regularly burned out? Are there clear deadlines and are these achievable? Is there a culture of openness? Do employees feel comfortable speaking to colleagues and managers?
- Educate all employees (including senior management) on what good and bad mental health looks like, how to spot signs in ourselves and others of possible issues and what the next steps are if those signs are present.
- Establish what those next steps and resources are. Are mental health first aiders available in the company? Is there a dedicated third party engaged for people to refer themselves or others to? How easy are these resources to access? Do people know about them?
- Make the necessary changes – be proactive, not reactive. If you wait until an employee’s wellbeing deteriorates, it’s already too late. It is important to make positive changes to the working environment, minimise the detrimental impact of specific workplace stressors and allow employees to feel comfortable seeking help if needed.
Breaking the stigma
In the last decade, we have seen a huge increase in the conversation around mental health with more and more people open to discussing their own experiences and willing to share what they’ve learnt with others. However, we still have a long way to go to break the stigma attached with having “mental health difficulties”.
To start with, the terminology around mental health is often completely misguided. We all have mental health and we all have to look after it. It’s not a problem that needs fixing, it’s an integral part of each of us that needs care and attention just as our physical health does.
If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t describe yourself as having “difficulties with your physical health”, you’d say you broke your leg, right? So why if you have anxiety, depression, or PTSD are you labelled as having “difficulties with your mental health”? Why are all diagnoses of mental health conditions grouped together, as if they’re all the same?
The spectrum of people’s experiences with their mental health is incredibly broad and each individual will have a unique response to these experiences, requiring a unique solution. Once we view mental health as an equal, interconnected partner to physical health, we will be able to move forward with providing effective support to those who need it.
The impact of my experience
My own experiences in early adulthood have opened my eyes to the world of mental healthcare, both the good and the bad. It has sparked a passion in me to campaign for quality, timely support, education on the first signs of difficulties and raising awareness and breaking the stigma attached with mental health diagnoses.