Over recent years there’s been a well needed increase in mental health awareness. Although there’s much more attention paid to our physical health, the focus that we’re now seeing on mental health demonstrates how important this matter is.
Unlike physical illnesses that are easier to spot and define, the signs of mental health problems can go undetected, sometimes for years, resulting in prolonged suffering and a lack of much needed support. It’s easy to see how this happens. Physical illnesses often have visible symptoms, whereas many mental illnesses don’t. If only we could read minds.
Having greater mental health awareness is not only beneficial to us as individuals, it can also give us the tools to know how to detect when someone else may be struggling mentally, and needs help. In this blog, we will look at what mental health awareness actually means and why it’s important.
Mental Health Meaning
To understand mental health, we need to know what it means.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as, ‘a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community. It is an integral component of health and well-being that underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and shape the world we live in’.
In other words, being in control of our mental health is integral to our decision-making, maintaining relationships, and dealing with the ups and downs of the rollercoaster that we call life.
What Is Mental Health Awareness?
Mental health awareness can be likened to a journey. Its ongoing and requires effort and action, not only on a personal level but also at work. Mental health awareness is very much a workplace issue, and should be given the attention it deserves just like physical health issues are. Employees are trained on how to do their jobs safely, they should also be trained on how to take care of their mental health and that of others, through mental health awareness training.
An Office for National Statistics (ONS) report shows that around 10% of all workplace sickness absence days can be attributed to mental health conditions. Improved workplace mental health support could save UK businesses billions annually.
Why Is Mental Health Awareness So Important?
According to mental health statistics one in four members of the UK population will experience mental health issues in any given year. This can range from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and OCD. With the population of the UK at around 67.5 million, that equates to nearly 16.9 million of us living and coping with mental health difficulties.
These statistics show the prevalence of mental health issues. If you’re living with a mental health issue, you are not alone.
As explained in the WHO statement above, our mental wellbeing has an impact on our lives overall: our relationships, our work life, and even our physical bodies. Poor mental health can see a breakdown of the world around us.
Mental health awareness is important because our mental health matters and guarding it, maintaining a positive mental state and being aware of the times when our mental health may be compromised, is vital to our overall health and wellbeing.
How Can Mental Health Awareness Help?
Increasing awareness helps to break the stigma surrounding mental health and positive steps are being taken on this. Our social media timelines are full of new initiatives and practices being used to encourage people to talk about their mental health and for companies to implement policies safeguarding the mental wellbeing of their employees.
National campaigns such as Mental Health Awareness Month, held in May, reinforces the need to not only talk about mental health issues but act on them too. Campaigns are a good way of reaching and educating individuals who, ordinarily, may find it hard to talk about any mental health issues they’re experiencing.
Tips for Promoting Mental Health Awareness
- Speak up. Unlike physical ailments, mental health problems can be hard to spot, as many of us successfully wear the mask of ‘everything is alright’. Talking about what is happening internally, with loved ones or mental health professionals can lighten the load and open up opportunities to get support.
- Be aware of the symptoms. Knowing what is typical for you will help you to know when things aren’t quite right. Inability to sleep, loss of appetite, reduced interest in hobbies and activities such as exercising, becoming easily irritated – these are all signs of mental distress.
- Create safe spaces. Whether it’s sharing your experiences on social media or a WhatsApp family/friendship group, regular meet ups in person or virtually to talk about mental health, creates a safe space to talk and increases awareness. Making people feel comfortable by knowing they are not alone and will not be judged, could have a huge impact on their lives.
- Take part in mental health events. More and more workplaces are investing in corporate wellness programs, with the aim of improving employee wellbeing. By doing so, many are seeing higher retention rates. These programs need your attendance in order to be successful. So next time that email comes through promoting a mental wellness lunch and learn, don’t ignore it.
- As long as you feel safe doing so, sharing your mental health experiences with colleagues can provide some relief and may encourage others to do the same. Employers have a duty of care to their employees to create safe environments in workplaces where the workforce can talk about their thoughts and feelings, without judgement.
- Take advantage of resources. Company benefits schemes often include access to counselling services. These services are confidential and free. Use them, and if you detect that a colleague would benefit from them, encourage them to do so too.
How to Spread Mental Health Awareness In The Workplace - A Case Study
See Me in Work is a workplace program that aims to support employers in tackling mental health stigma and discrimination. In 2016 HM Passport Office used the program to improve mental health awareness through various sessions which included e-Learning dramas as well as TED style talks.
Employees were also provided with an opportunity to have healthy debates on mental health, were asked to create lists of the mental health conditions they were aware of and the signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress. This approach proved to be successful and a further 64 sessions took place, involving 740 employees spreading across the HM Passport Office UK estate.
Increase Mental Health Awareness with Training
Gaining a better understanding of mental health is one of the best ways to increase awareness. Training builds the knowledge and understanding and you may learn something totally new about your own mental wellbeing. Human Focus have a range of mental health courses that cover everything to improve mental health, from mental health awareness, bullying and harassment, stress at work and resilience, to Mind Management Skills, diet and exercise. You can do them online, in your own time – you can even fit one into your lunch break. Once you and your staff do one of these courses, you’ll realise why mental health awareness is important and the positive impact it can have on your whole organization.