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Mental Health Awareness

May marks national Mental Health Awareness Month. We all have mental health that can be measured on a scale and everyone will fluctuate up and down at different times in life. Having positive mental health doesn’t mean that you’re always happy. At the same time, poor mental health doesn’t always mean you’re permanently unhappy, rather, you find it harder to cope well with normal day-to-day stresses and challenges. It’s just as important to look after your mental health as it is your physical health.

Challenging the stigma that surrounds mental illness and diagnosis

Mental health stigma is the negative attitude and discrimination faced by those with mental illness, or poor mental health. This stigma sadly contributes to the worsening of mental wellbeing in individuals, as well as a reluctance to reach out for help when in need of assistance. In turn, this impacts the support that the person receives and can often lead to help not being sought.

Challenging the stigma is part of our mission at the EIC and is a vital step in towards creating a more inclusive and supportive environment. Education is at the heart of how we can challenge the stigma. By creating an awareness about mental health problems and the impact they can have on people, we can cultivate a safe space for those in need and a level of understanding in those around them.

Sharing personal experiences if another way to reduce stigma that surrounds mental health. Creating a space to share without judgement helps to reduce the sense of isolation that may be felt by someone suffering in silence.

Most importantly, having the courage to challenge negative language and stereotypes is crucial. We all have a role to play to stamp out the stigma and create an inclusive and accepting environment.

Keeping mentally healthy

According to the NHS, there are 5 steps that can be taken to improve your mental wellbeing:

  1. Connecting with others – whether this is grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend or colleague, or speaking with a family member over the phone, or maybe even volunteering at your local charity shop, this interaction is helpful in promoting positive mental health.
  2. Get active – just getting outside and enjoying a change of scenery can be so supportive in boosting your mental wellbeing. Exercising helps to produce a chemical in your brain that assisting in positively changing your mood!
  3. Learn new skills – the best way to do this is by finding things you enjoy and incorporating them into your daily routine. Learning to cook a new dish, or trying a new hobby are great ways to gain a sense of achievement without adding pressure.
  4. Give to others – Acts of giving and kindness give us a warmth, a feeling of reward and generate positive feelings that contribute to a positive emotional wellbeing. It may be small acts of kindness towards others like spending time with others or larger ones, like fundraising in your local community.
  5. Live in the present (mindfulness) – Paying attention to the present is known as ‘mindfulness’. It can help you to enjoy life and understand yourself better. Find out more about Mindfulness here: Mindfulness – NHS

Supporting those who are struggling

It can be difficult to know how best to support someone who is struggling with their mental health, but you do not need to be a professional or an expert to show that you care and offer support.

  • Show your support: Don’t be afraid to ask how the person is – they might want to talk, they might not, but by asking, you are demonstrating that you care for their wellbeing. It also presents an opportunity to understand what they are going through.
  • Ask how you can help: The person may not be ready to accept support but asking how you can help shows that you are there to assist where you can.
  • Be open-minded and non-judgemental: Listening non-judgementally is the key to supporting someone who is struggling with their mental health. Phrases like ‘cheer up’ and ‘pull yourself together’ contribute to the negative stigma that surrounds mental health and may make the person feel belittled or invalidated for how they are feeling.
  • Don’t make everything about mental health: Most people do not wish to be defined by their mental health problem, so continue typical conversations too.
  • Look after yourself: Supporting others can sometimes lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed. It is important to continue to look after your own mental wellbeing so that you feel well enough to help. You can do this by talking to someone you trust about how you’re feeling which can help you to feel supported, too.

Promoting positive mental health in the workplace

What type of person has mental health? WE ALL DO. Mental health is different to mental illness. Everyone has mental health, but not everyone has mental illness. Your mental health will fluctuate from being positive, negative and somewhere in-between throughout life.

Recognising when your mental health is suffering is important, as this enables early intervention to be actioned. This awareness will also help you to identify when others are struggling. As we spend such a huge proportion of our lives at work, creating an awareness and knowledge of how to promote positive mental health should be a priority.
There are a number of benefits to promoting positive mental health in the workplace, including:

  • Increased productivity.
  • Improved staff morale.
  • High-performing employees.
  • Reduced sickness days and staff absence.
  • Improved staff retention and lower staff turnover.
  • Increased innovation.

You may wish to open discussions about mental health to normalise speaking about times of struggle.

Completing mental health training will help to reduce the stigma, debunk myths and raise awareness on how to support colleagues and oneself, alike.

Assigning Mental Health Champions and Mental Health First Aiders can be very supportive in assisting the wellbeing strategy, raise awareness of mental health and provide signposting to those in need. Find out more about our training here.