A new pandemic, mental health!

The coronavirus pandemic has had a knock-on effect, creating an ‘unprecedented’ mental illness pandemic with a surge in calls to helplines.

Mental health charity Mind’s daily website views rose from 9,580 on January 4 to 14,167 after the announcement of a third lockdown in the UK last week.

Mind’s chief executive Paul Farmer said: ‘It’s no understatement to say that the nation is facing a mental health pandemic.’

And YoungMinds’ parents helpline has been receiving calls about anxiety, depression and self-harm, according to its chief executive Emma Thomas.

As we all learn new ways to deal with the third Lockdown this country has seen in less than a year, we need to ensure that we are supporting our employees and colleagues.

During his coronavirus news briefing on January 5, the Prime Minister said approximately £12 billion had been spent on NHS mental health care, with around another £19-20 million contributed towards mental health charities. However, Ms Thomas said that people are choosing not to look for help when the NHS were under so much pressure.

So what can we do?

Firstly, not everyone will show obvious signs of a mental health problem and it’s important not to make assumptions. But some possible signs at work include:

  • Appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn.
  • Increase in sickness absence or being late to work.
  • Changes in the standard of their work or focus on tasks.
  • Being less interested in tasks they previously enjoyed.
  • Changes in usual behaviour, mood or how the person behaves with the people they work with.

It’s harder to spot these signs if employees are working from home, you have minimal contact with them or when many are feeling a heightened level of anxiety and stress. It’s important to regularly ask your staff how they’re doing and create an environment where they feel able to be open and honest about how they’re feeling.

The sooner you become aware that someone you manage is experiencing a mental health problem, the sooner you can provide help and support.

Knowing how to approach and talk to a team member who has a mental health problem may seem difficult.

If you believe a team member may be experiencing a mental health problem, you should:

  • Arrange a conversation as soon as possible, if appropriate.
  • Make sure you talk to them in private.
  • Be flexible about when and where.
  • Approach the conversation in a positive and supportive way.

If a team member talks to you about their mental health, it may have been difficult for them to take this step. It’s important you are calm, patient, supportive and reassuring.

When they approach you, you should thank them for opening up to you and give them as much time as they need.

During the conversation, you should:

  • Listen carefully to what they say.
  • Try to identify what the cause is, for example by keeping questions open ended.
  • Think about ways to help, for example if there is any support they can get at work.
  • Reassure them – let them know you will help them get the support they need.

If either of you need to think about what has been discussed before any decisions are made, you should agree to have some time to think things through.

Be clear about confidentiality, you should reassure the person that you will not share anything they tell you with anyone else without their permission, unless there’s a good reason to. If there is, you should be clear about who you will share it with.

Do not forget yourself, in all of this you as a Business Owner, Manager, Supervisor are just as important. You need to be able to identify your own needs and be able to ask for support where you need it. Your mental health can have an impact on your team.

If you would like us to discuss Mental Health First Aid training please do not hesitate to get in contact with us.

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