Thursday 26 October 2017
Promoting better mental health in the workplace
The publication of 'Thriving at Work' could be the start of a much-needed culture change in the workplace. We spend a lot of our time at work, and unsurprisingly our job can have a huge impact on our wellbeing and mental health.
The report is clear that there is a lot more that employers can do to keep their staff 'thriving' or to help them when they're struggling or in crisis. Not only is this the kind thing to do, but it also makes business sense in terms of productivity and sickness absence.
A few years ago, I was struggling at work, and I wish my employer had been more equipped to help me and spot the signs that I was ill. I'd held a number of senior sales management positions throughout my career and was a high performer. But then, between 2010 and 2014 I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.
Some of my symptoms meant I went from being a very outgoing and a chatty person to being very withdrawn and unable to communicate effectively. I also found it virtually impossible to talk about what I was going through, even though it was really affecting how I was at work.
Looking back, my employer at that time didn't recognise my symptoms as mental ill-health. They only saw that my concentration levels had decreased and that I had become easily bored.
They interpreted this, along with me being withdrawn and unable to communicate what was happening to me, as signs of me not being interested in my role and the job anymore. So they took the opportunity to make me redundant. And for a while that made my ill-health even worse.
As I recovered, I could see that what had happened to me wasn’t right so I decided to do something about it. I wanted to help others in a similar position and I wanted to tackle the stigma around mental health. So I retrained in mental health and got some valuable voluntary experience working in Adult and Children’s services. Now I work for Rethink Mental Illness and lead their external training team. I know that my ideas and skills can directly make a difference in educating and supporting employers and employees on mental health and workplace wellbeing.
Steve is Head of Training at Rethink Mental Illness and together with his team has delivered mental health first aid to over 4000 people across the UK.