Safeguarding the mental health of your staff is as important as ensuring they are safe physically. Declan Halton-Woodward, EA to the CEO at Handelsbanken Wealth/Heartwood offers some advice…
Mental health is as important as physical health. I could argue it is more important given symptoms of mental ill-health can often go unnoticed. One in four people will experience mental health issues; so why do we still find it hard to open up and talk about these issues, and how can we make it easier?
Many employers are putting on mental health workshops and training programmes to increase awareness and education. There are charities who can help with this and, with our backing, we can approach execs and HR teams to request further training on these subjects if required.
Language can often be a barrier to discussion. It can feel like the ‘right’ language to use is frequently changing and so we don’t talk for fear of saying the wrong thing and causing offence. Lots of material can be found online to educate oneself.
For example, don’t equate the person and the illness; rather, put the person first (Sally has bipolar disorder, not Sally is bipolar). Don’t use terms that suggest pity like ‘suffering from’ or ‘victim of’; instead use ‘has’ or ‘lives with’.
The best way to learn is by asking. People will have their own preference of how they would like their health issues referred to and, by asking, you show that you are an ally who cares.
Symptoms of mental ill-health are vast but learning what these are and taking time to recognise how we and others are feeling is a good start. We must take seriously any concerns, not pass things off as a ‘negative mind-set’ or ‘just a little stress’. Before we know it, things can get out of hand.
It is very powerful when individuals share their own experiences; it helps break down barriers and perceptions. This can be with one other person to make them feel comfortable or, if you are able, with a wider audience. It also shows that these issues are widespread, and in some cases they can be overcome. Individuals with mental health issues look just like us; they might be us now or in the future.
These people do and can go on to contribute and live healthy lives. It is only by talking that we can make a difference, end the stigma and facilitate an environment which allows acceptance and healing.