Work starts today if we’re serious about making mental health a priority

 

Margaret Hanson, Chief Executive, Imagine Independence

Last week Mental Health Awareness Week shone a light on loneliness. It was great to see so many workplaces championing support for mental health and raising awareness of the challenges at least one in four of us will face at some point in our lives.

We all have mental health and need to understand what we as individuals can do to maximise it across our life course.

Conversations on mental health are increasingly becoming part of our everyday lives. We’re finally learning the language through which we can have these sometimes difficult conversations. But we also need to accept that not all conversations about mental health are difficult and it can be enough to just make a cup of tea and listen.

Whilst we don’t talk enough about mental illness, people do now feel more able to ask for help with their mental health when they begin to experience issues. That represents massive progress and the pace of change over the past decade must give hope for the future.

Campaigns like Mental Health Awareness Week are having a wonderful impact in helping to tackle the stigma still attached to all things to do with mental health and encouraging people to turn to support services. They help to normalise the idea that mental health is just as important as physical health, with the two intrinsically linked.

However, the real challenge is to make sure the rhetoric around Mental Health Awareness Week is transformed into action - all day, every day.

For all businesses and organisations, thinking about mental health needs to be integral to the culture and processes they adopt. Much more needs to be done, however, and that starts with leaders in every organisation taking a look under the bonnet of their businesses and challenging whether they are doing enough to promote good mental wellbeing in the workplace.

The impact of mental ill health within the workplace is the current leading cause of sickness absence, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year. Providing ongoing training and skills to spot the signs that people are struggling with their mental health is key to tackling this. And it is simply the right thing to do.

At Imagine Independence, the aim is to help and support people to live full, meaningful, and independent lives.

An essential part of delivering on our mission is to provide Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for workplaces, educational settings, and other community and voluntary organisations.

Embedding MHFA training within an organisation encourages people to talk more freely about mental health. It allows colleagues in the workplace to feel comfortable about potential struggles and tackle challenges before it is too late.

With over 40 years’ experience in challenging the stigma around mental illness and social exclusion, everyone at Imagine knows it is so important it is to spot the signs of poor mental health before an individual reaches crisis point.

Having open, authentic conversations about mental health in the workplace is essential, both individually and on a strategic level. They are a positive step in changing work culture, improving colleagues’ welfare and creating a positive environment where everyone is committed to promoting good mental health.

Find out more about Imagine’s Mental health First Aid training courses on our website www.imagineindependence.org.uk or contact Antony Dowell directly on adowell@imagineindependence.org.uk.