Mental Health Awareness: Creating Kinder Cultures within the Workplace
Date: Wednesday 19th June 2019
Venue: Ortus Conference and Events Center, London
On June 19th, Practicus ran an event in collaboration with Breaking the Silence’s David Beeney on mental health awareness in the workplace.
Research shows that mental health problems in the workplace cost UK employers £26 billion per year, averaging £1,035 per employee. In fact, the vast majority of people will be impacted by mental health problems at some point in their life.
ABOUT DAVID BEENEY
David began his session by talking about his professional career and how he has tried to overcome his severe panic attacks and anxiety struggles throughout his profession.
David shared with our audience how his continuous panic attacks at 24, made him feel humiliated and he couldn’t talk to anyone about how he was really feeling.
He explained about the main areas people suffered from when it comes to mental health.
David spoke about the sensitive and uncomfortable topic of suicide and gave our audience some shocking statistics:
- 4/10 Suicides come as a complete shock to the victim’s family
- 8/10 suicides are male
- Suicide is the biggest killer of men in the UK under the age of 55
- “It is usually the loud, confident person who is suffering from mental health problems, instead of the obvious choice which is the quiet, lonesome person sat in the corner. Mental health is constantly disguised as something completely different.”
- “From a young age, men have been told by their parents that showing emotion is seen as a weakness. As a community we have taken this on board and in turn this has affected so many people as men can’t admit to anyone they are not ok and that they need some support.”
- “We have become excellent at hiding our mental health problems, as it is a form of humiliation which we want to avoid, along with all the difficult and uncomfortable questions.”
- “A top news reporter suffered from a panic attack live on television while reading the news. It shows that it can happen to anyone, even someone talking to over 10 million people, this also includes celebrities such as Robin Williams.”
- “My main style was to take the focus off me and put it on someone else. In turn, this made my colleagues feel more valued as I would compliment them and tell them they should take big opportunities instead of me. I saw this as a leadership distraction method.”
- “Laughter is a great coping mechanism and disguises the fact I am extremely nervous about having a panic attack in front of senior people. Where I am expected to deliver a talk/pitch I take with me my giant baked bean pencil case. As a result, people laugh at it and question why I’ve chosen this odd pencil case. I do this because it relaxes me and because people are laughing with me it gives me the confidence I need before I continue to present my talk.”
- “Nowadays, I always give out tins of baked beans to people that attend my talks. It is not only great from a branding/marketing point of view, but it will make people laugh and remember me. I challenge you to put the tin of baked beans on your desk and see how many of your colleagues walk past and ask why you have a tin of baked beans on your desk. Tell them that it’s to get more people talking openly about mental health.”
THE STIGMA AROUND MENTAL HEALTH
Only 1 in 20 people tell the truth that they are suffering from mental health, but the rest will inevitably lie. This is due to the stigma that still surrounds mental health and how people react to it, especially within the workplace.
David argued that it is actually 1 in 1 people that suffer from mental health problems.
- “Mental health is not just the most well-known forms such as depression, bipolar and schizophrenia. It’s other things like mental fatigue, lack of energy and stress. These are seen as minor and almost ‘normal’ forms, but it is these little things which can ultimately escalate and become more serious.”
- “Everyone has physical health, such as wanting to stay fit and healthy, so why are we not doing the same for our minds?”
- “You don’t have to be diagnosed to have a mental health problem. People are embarrassed about seeing therapists because of the stigma that comes with it.”
David stated that the more you invest in your staff, the happier and more productive they will be. The stigma of mental health in workplace is still seen as one of the taboos of the workplace and an area of uncertainty. To conclude his talk, David offered our audience various methods we can apply to our workforce to help end the stigma of mental health within the workplace
THE TONE MUST COME FROM THE TOP OF THE ORGANISATION
- “Your line manager should be the first point of contact if you have any problems. You should feel comfortable talking to them about mental health problems, and in turn they should be properly trained in how to react and what help to offer.”
- “Create personable relationships, it’s not all about KPIs and hitting targets. It’s also about getting to know the employee on a personal level, e.g. in a oneto-one meeting ask how they are and how their family are doing. It really makes a difference.”
TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH LIKE WE TALK ABOUT PHYSICAL HEALTH
- “Imagine two employees, one is off work due to a physical injury ( i.e. broken leg) the other is off work due to needing some time and suffering from a stress related illness. The employee with the physical problem will receive ‘get well soon’ cards and knows when they are returning to work. The other employee gets nothing and doesn’t know how long it will take until they are ‘cured’.”
- “This is still a very common problem in the workplace and it is due to stigma that we still allow it to continue.”
CHANGE THE LANGUAGE WE USE TO DESCRIBE MENTAL HEALTH
- “Why don’t we call it ‘low energy levels’ instead of ‘depressed’?
- “Acknowledge that mental health comes in many different forms, it doesn’t matter how minor that might be.”
Thank you to David Beeney for talking to us about his incredible personal journey and to offer ways we can all try to combat mental health stigma in the workplace. To read more about David please visit http://breakingthesilence.co.uk/
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