Mental ill-health is on the rise across the UK. As a parent, you are always on the look out for ways to help keep our children happy and healthy - but do you look after your own mental health in the same way?
Did you know…
· that stress, anxiety or depression affects 1 in 6 of us?
· it is currently the most frequent cause of absence from work, with 1 in 3 fit notes citing mental health?
· for many, work is the biggest cause of stress in people’s lives?
In this article, we provide a brief introduction to mental health, what to look out for in yourself and others, and what to do to help protect and manage your mental health and those around you.
Do you know the signs?
Everyone’s experience of mental health is slightly different. People with stress, anxiety or depression may display different signs or symptoms and some might not show any at all. Often, we cannot tell by someone’s behaviour alone, but uncharacteristic behaviour can be an important sign.
Some signs that you may have noticed in yourself include:
· Behavioural: struggling with workload, low levels of concentration and focus, difficulty in organising things, low productivity, negative attitude/changes in motivation.
· Physical: tiredness/having sleepless nights, increased drinking and/or smoking habits, loss of appetite, headaches.
· Emotional: feeling anxious and irritable, mood changes and differences in your interaction with colleagues and friends, excessive emotion, feeling isolated/socially withdrawn.
What causes mental ill-health?
The causes of mental ill-health can be complex,
· It can happen suddenly, as a result of a specific experience or life event
· It can also happen as a result of pressures that have accumulated over time
· It can be linked to another illness such as back pain or heart disease
· Sometimes there is no obvious reason
What can you do to protect your mental health? The things we can do to protect our mental health are a natural part of life and may seem common sense – but we let them slip as soon as life starts to get too busy! The New Economics Foundation (NEF) has identified 5 ways we can improve personal wellbeing. Take time to think about whether you do any of these over the course of your week:
Mental health and the workplace
For many of us, work is very important – not only for financial reasons but also for our identity and our health. Work itself can also cause stress - when our work is not properly designed or managed, or we are under pressure for too long. Talking about stress or mental health can be hard - people often don’t know what to say, or are worried that admitting to feeling under pressure will be damaging to their career – but research shows that it is often best to talk, and talk early, so that you can put in place strategies to help you get better. The chances are if something is impacting your health, it is probably affecting others too.
When taking time off work for mental ill-health people often pretend that it is something else – a migraine, an ill child or back pain – to avoid the stigma of saying that they are struggling with their mental health. A team of researchers at Kingston University, Loughborough University and Affinity Health at Work are developing a free-to-access toolkit to help employees and employers navigate the return to work process following a mental health sickness absence. If you are currently off work and would like advice about how to get back, or if you are an employer or manager who has staff currently off work but do not know what to do for the best, this toolkit is for you. Please contact Rebecca on firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more about the toolkit or would like to be involved in the research.
Mind, The Health and Safety Executive and the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development have lots of useful guidance about what you can do to protect your mental health, and how workplaces can support employees, if you want to find out more.
This article was written by Dr. Joanna Yarker, Rebecca Peters and Dr. Rachel Lewis