Mental health in the workplace

Mental health trainer, Lou O’Connell, recently educated our Senior Leadership and People & Culture teams on how to identify and support mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. The statistics she shared relating to diagnosed conditions, presenteeism, stress, and suicide were astonishing, yet published before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic which will inevitably increase the figures across the board.

Mental health is a crucial yet often difficult topic to discuss openly in the workplace. When asked to identify negative language associated with mental health, participants made long lists of words we know are rude, wrong, and unrepresentative. But when asked to do the same for neutral or positive words and phrases, we struggled. “What is ok to say, and when?” we asked.

Employees with different forms and levels of health and wellbeing identify their own mental health in different ways, so it is best to employ the same language as the person you are speaking with. Equally, you can’t go wrong by using medical terminology, and using ‘has’ or ‘lives with’ rather than ‘struggles with’ or ‘suffers from’.

Lou also equipped us with tools to support employees who are feeling overwhelmed at work by asking the following questions in the order below:

  • Do I have evidence to support my feelings?
  • What can I change?
  • What can’t I change and need to accept?
  • What needs my urgent attention?
  • Who can help?

By writing down their responses, employees should be able to identify what is causing their ‘stress container’ to overflow, and what taps they can turn on to let some of the stress out.

Lou shared some insightful resources with the group, such as Happiful; a free digital magazine (which can be bought in print) devoted to mental health. The website is up-to-date with topical news, provides professional advice in the form of features, suggests positivity hacks, shares stories via a podcast, and offers a therapist finder tool.

Overall, the group found the training insightful and thought-provoking; heightening our awareness of our own mental health, as well as the techniques we can employ to help our colleagues who may require specific support. The PHA Group has an ongoing commitment to training our employees at all levels in this area, and we look forward to everyone benefitting as a result.

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