Raising mental health awareness in the workplace

Posted by John Kendrick, Managing Consultant

We asked one of our Mental Health First Aiders, John Kendrick, to write about the importance of good mental health as part of World Mental Health Day 2019.  

A lot of people worry about and openly discuss their physical health. We are told from aearly age that if you eat healthily and exercise regularly, the likelihood is that it will increase your chance of living a long and healthy life! 

Sadly, not quite as many people worry about, or openly discuss, their mental health. The question is why? It is just as important as physical health in terms of life satisfaction, after all.  

There are a myriad of reasons behind the stigmatisation of mental health, some of it down to social engineering; the ‘stiff upper lip’ that permeates the subconscious of society, and the constant reinforcement of unhelpful phrases such as ‘man up’ and ‘just get on with it’. 

Discussing mental health is still considered a taboo subject across many different demographics and cultures. Getting people to feel comfortable discussing tricky subjects isn’t easy.  So, what can a workplace do to open the dialogue around this sort of subject?  

One of the first and most effective things they can do is get some staff trained as ‘Mental Health First Aiders’. These roles should be seen to be just as important as having First Aiders and Fire Wardens.   

Over the last year at DMW, we have seen four members of staff qualify as certified Mental Health First Aiders, with another four preparing for training and qualification in the next few months.    

We aren’t suggesting we have any more or fewer issues than any other company, but we are saying that we are willing to provide a space that encourages people to talk about their mental wellbeing. It encourages a culture where people look out for one another; where someone can comfortably approach a colleague and ask for a chat over a coffee if they need it. 

These seemingly small workplace improvements have an important knock-on effect on people’s mental health. The average person spends 40 hours a week at workso it is important that there is an environment that positively effectsreacts and respects their mental health. 

Having completed the Mental Health First Aider training, I found it to be very powerful course. It covered some pretty uncompromising subject areas, but I am now much better skilled to help people should I need to.   

I also now know how important it is to look out for your co-workers, create that space for your colleagues to step into should they need it, and how powerful simply asking someone “Are you ok? Do you fancy popping out for a coffee?” can be. 

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