Creating a mental health friendly environment within the workplace is absolutely imperative. According to the Mental Health Foundation, anxiety and depression are the most prevalent mental health disorders, with 7.8% of the British population qualifying for a diagnosis. Although only 7.8% met the criteria for a diagnosis, nearly 20% of those over the age of 16 expressed symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. The Mental Health Foundation also predicts that 4-10% of Brits will experience depression at some point during their lifetime.
These disorders account for about one fifth of the work days missed in the UK. Curating a mental health friendly workplace takes compassion, support, empathy, and understanding from the employer and fellow employees.
Creating a Mental Health Friendly Workplace
There are so many individuals struggling with mental health problems, be it anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or a personality disorder. It can be difficult to tell if someone is dealing with mental illness, as it is more often than not an “invisible illness”. While anxiety and depression are both correlated with physical ailments, those who are struggling can appear to be able-bodied, maybe even in fine shape. For that reason, it’s incredibly important to practice mindfulness and treat everyone with respect. You never know what may be going on behind the scenes.
A kind and supportive work environment may help those with mental health struggles. Creating a safe space where everyone feels accepted and appreciated can boost self-esteem and perhaps give people something to look forward to.
Communication is Key
Whilst you shouldn’t pry, open the door for communication. Let your employees or colleagues know you’re there for them. If someone cannot come into work due to depression keeping them bedridden, practice empathy and understanding. Let them know it’s okay and just as valid as if they were staying home due to the flu.
Try not to bombard or overwork your employees, especially those who appear especially stressed. Applying excess pressure will only serve as another stressor. If you know an important deadline is coming up, give as much notice as possible.
Lending a Helping Hand
Some individuals may need a little extra support or help. If you can, try to lessen the workload by offering assistance or assigning someone else to work with them. Let the individual know you are there if they have any questions or need additional guidance and assistance.
It’s important to generate awareness and spread information about mental health conditions without drawing attention to anyone within the office that may be exhibiting signs of mental illness. Give out pamphlets on how to healthily cope and de-stress, regularly schedule meetings discussing the importance of mental health and dismissing any misinformation that may be floating around. Inviting a speaker to come into the office and talk about their experiences may also be helpful as well as educational.
Encourage the office to take a step away from the desk and take a breather every once in a while. Overworking will only diminish the quality of production, on top of wearing away at the individual.
Practising mindfulness is also important when communicating with one another. It’s important to stay aware of how we speak to one another, as well as the ways in which we speak about mental health. Dispelling ignorance and misinformation will reduce the chances of insensitivity or accidentally offending one another.
It is also worth developing a mental health policy and adhering to it, showing everyone that you take mental health seriously and genuinely care about the issue.
Expressing support and empathy towards those who may be struggling with mental illness is the cornerstone of curating a safe and welcoming workplace. Communication, awareness, and mindfulness are also at the heart of a mental health friendly workplace.
If you’d like more information or support relating to mental health, here are some useful sites you can visit: