Banishing stigma to the past in Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week runs until 19th May and is an excellent opportunity for businesses to highlight the importance of mental wellbeing in the workplace.

It goes without saying that if you’re starting a business, the pressures you are bound to feel will have an effect on your mental wellbeing, so I would encourage you to find out what support there is on offer.

The Institute of Directors (IoD), for example, has teamed up with the mental health charity Mind and Westfield Health to relaunch their Mental Health & Wellbeing in the Workplace campaign. A recent mental health survey of their members found that over 50 per cent said that factors including poor work life balance and a heavy workload had impacted on their mental health.

It also revealed that while the majority of managers had been sought out by staff over mental health issues, around half said that their organisation did not make provision for supporting mental wellbeing. A lack of suitable information and guidance was blamed for this.

These findings have been taken on board in the relaunch of their campaign, which promotes the IoD’s dedicated online hub signposting resources such as toolkits, workshops and factsheets about mental health issues.

If you’re part of a small business, you’ll find some resources that are particularly relevant for you: a training toolkit for mental health in small workplaces and a mental health factsheet for SMEs are two examples.

It is also great to see the the work of Princes William and Harry in getting people to speak about mental health. Their Heads Together campaign aims to challenge the stigma around mental health and turn this around to help people feel secure discussing their mental wellbeing. It promotes tools and services to help achieve this, such as a new 24/7 text helpline (text “Shout” to 85258) offering people a safe space to find support.

I was similarly heartened to read about Sport England’s work on investing in mental health by funding projects to get people enjoying physical activity and reaping the benefits for both mind and body. This perspective of seeing mental health as something to be nurtured, and which will reap rewards is exactly the sort of attitude we need to get behind.

It’s the language such as “investing” that is important, and will help promote a change to seeing mental health as something to be taken care of automatically, just as you would brush your teeth twice daily and choose nutritious food.

And all the organisations mentioned above have a common message – that it’s vital for us to talk about our mental wellbeing and not feel afraid to do so.

What’s great about awareness days and weeks such as these is that this is exactly what they encourage, and are part of the change we need to see that will banish fear and stigma to the past.

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