As awareness of mental health has been increasing, we've been welcoming representatives from Suffolk Mind to our Head Office to deliver their fantastic ‘Your Emotional Needs Met’ training to our staff.
Mental health is no longer seen as separate to physical health – the link between body and mind is becoming more and more well understood, with the recognition that when one is poorly, the other often suffers as well. Unfortunately for many, particularly those in the older generations, mental health is seen as a taboo subject, made worse by the traditional British ‘stiff upper lip’ – where you were simply expected to ‘pull your socks up’ and get on with it if you were suffering from mental health problems.
Mental health in the workplace
Stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 15.4 million lost working days in the UK in 2018 which is 57% of all total absences due to illness, with an estimated 595,000 workers suffering from these conditions. This alone represents as good a reason as any for workplaces to start tackling these issues before they become more serious. The stigma and negative attitudes attached to mental health issues has drastically fallen away over recent years, although there is still some way to go – and while we should applaud people seeking help for their issues, this has created a huge strain on mental health services.
Just recently in our own back yard, the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust has been rated as the worst performing mental health trust in England, and so far is the only trust to have been taken into special measures by the government. And due to cuts in both local and central government funding, mental health services across the UK have been stretched almost to breaking point in some areas. For this reason, it is especially important that people are equipped with the best possible skills to be able to deal with any mental health issues that might arise either in themselves or in others.
Understanding your emotional needs
My ‘Your Needs Met’ training session was delivered by Ezra from Suffolk Mind who greeted us all with a smile. It was only a small group – only 6 of us – and it’s fair to say to begin with it was all a little bit awkward. But after some introductions, Ezra began explaining to us the theory of the ‘Mental Health Continuum’ – that we all sit on the spectrum somewhere and move fluidly up and down during the course of our lives.
We went on to discuss the very basic internal factors that have an impact on our mental health, including memory, emotions, rational thinking and imagination, and learned about the importance of sleep and how not getting enough can have an impact on mental health.
We also looked at the different triggers and coping mechanisms that often come hand in hand with mental health conditions, such as food and drink or the use of drugs like alcohol and caffeine. It was striking to be having a real conversation about mental health not just in a group, but in the workplace too – it really brings home how far we have come from the days where you never discussed it with anyone!
The most important thing to bear in mind that if you’re struggling, there’s loads and loads of free and really helpful advice out there that can help – and if you’re able, there are things you can do yourself to help you take back control of your life.