Talking about mental health in the workplace

Discussing mental health can still be taboo in the workplace. The human cost is well-documented, but there is also a strong business case for changing this – a recent report from the Business in the Community (BITC) Workwell group suggests that this is having a detrimental effect on the productivity of UK businesses.

Figures from the report suggest that 15.2million days of sickness absence in 2013 were caused by mental health issues such as stress, anxiety or depression. This figure was 11.8 million in 2010, and the dramatic increase is a worrying rise.

It also poses a question:  if one in six employees are experiencing difficulty with their mental health, why is it that many businesses do not have in place plans to ensure the mental wellbeing of their employees?

Louise Aston from the the Workwell campaign called this a result of the ‘culture of silence’ in this Guardian article. But how can we break down this culture?

Thankfully, the BITC group have been taking positive action: a list of the great and good have taken the Time to Change pledge  including American Express, BaxterStorey, BT; Bupa, BITC, Friends Life, Mars; National Grid, Procter & Gamble, Right Management, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Santander

This move towards businesses recognising the need to address mental health as a serious concern suggest that we can perhaps be hopeful for a future where mental health is no longer such an unspeakable topic. And with people such as Ruby Wax calling for those who are experiencing poor mental health to speak out – we can perhaps look forward this taboo in the workplace is finally broken down.

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International Day of Happiness

At 11.02am today the spring equinox will occur marking the start of spring. Spring is often a time for celebration and happiness as the days get longer, the weather gets nicer (let’s ignore the snow for now!) and everywhere you look little lambs are frolicking in the fields.

happinessIt’s only fitting then that the UN will be celebrating another first on 20th March 2013 – International Day of Happiness. Today the UN recognises that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”

In July 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/281 which decreed that the International Day of Happiness would be observed every year on 20 March. The creation of the International Day of Happiness followed on from the first ever United Nations  conference on Happiness and Wellbeing and an earlier UN resolution calling for member states to place a greater focus on the happiness of their citizens.

Many governments are now moving towards measuring national prosperity beyond economic factors to include new elements such as happiness and wellbeing. Indeed, David Cameron stated that Britain will “start measuring our progress as a country not just by how our economy is growing, but by how our lives are improving, not just by our standard of living, but by our quality of life,”

For a long time research in the field of mental health has focused primarily on mental ill-health rather than the full spectrum of mental wellbeing. However, the growth of positive psychology in the late 20th century has given rise to the importance of giving attention to our positive thoughts, feelings and actions, as opposed to focusing on negative thoughts or actions. By reminding ourselves what went well instead of what went wrong, positive psychologists believe we can build a buffer against unhappiness, making us better able to take life’s knocks when they occur. Having a greater insight into what makes us happy in the first place can lead to practical actions to make us happier.

One of the founders of positive psychology, Martin Seligman summarizes human happiness:

When we have…

   Pleasure (tasty foods, warm baths etc… )

   Engagement (the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity)

   Relationships (social ties are extremely reliable indicator of happiness)

  Meaning (a perceived pursuit or belonging to something bigger)

  Accomplishments (having recognised, concrete goals)

Do you agree with Martin Seligman? Join the discussion on twitter with #happyday and share what makes you happy.

Give a thought to your mental wellbeing this St Patrick’s Day

This weekend pubs in Edinburgh will be packed for two reasons. Many will be celebrating or commiserating the end of the six nations but many more will be celebrating in the name of St Patrick – Ireland’s patron saint.

There is something about St Patrick’s Day that has captured the hearts of people far from the shores of the Emerald Isle. With its growing popularity St Patrick’s Day has become synonymous with drinking large amounts of alcohol. And it’s fair to say that we like our alcohol in Britain. A 2005 report published by WHO found that the UK has the 15th highest consumption of alcohol in the world (Ireland was 13th).

St Patricks Day Thirst

 

We all know that binge drinking is bad for us. But how aware are we of the drinks we rack up throughout the week? A bottle of wine with dinner, a pint after work or even a nightcap doesn’t seem like a lot but it can all add up with many people drinking far more than they realise.

Government guidelines recommend that women shouldn’t drink more than 2-3 units a day and men, 3-4 units and we should also be aiming to have at least TWO alcohol-free days a week.

If you drink responsibly and stick to the sensible drinking guidelines, you can have a positive effect on your health and wellbeing, both in the short and the long-term. Some of the benefits are obvious when you look in the mirror; others are about feeling happier, healthier and having more energy.

You don’t have to be an alcoholic or dependence on alcohol for it to effective your physical and mental health. Many successful, high-achieving business men and women often use alcohol as a way to unwind and relax after a stressful day at the office. Overtime alcohol can become associated with relaxation and an unhelpful coping strategy develops to help manage everyday anxiety and stress. Research has found that anxiety and depression are more common in heavy drinkers and heavy drinking is more common in those with anxiety and depression.

So why not use this St Patrick’s Day to examine your relationship with booze and give a thought to your mental health.

If you feel that you use alcohol to help cope with anxiety and stress we can help. Get in touch with resolve on 0131 718 6003 or email support@resolvescotland.org.uk.

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