There’s a stigma around mental health at work. Being stressed and anxious can be framed as your own fault, or something you should just get over. Someone with depression can be accused of being grumpy or just having a bad day. But anyone can suffer from poor mental health, just like poor physical health. We sometimes think of being “mentally ill” as conditions like schizophrenia or suicidal thoughts, developing a sense of fear and “other” about it. But that’s just one part of the story.
In 2014/15, 43% of days lost at work due to absence in the UK are caused by mental ill health – some 9.9 million. We don’t talk about our mental health enough and often don’t receive the support we really need. A survey conducted by the Guardian in 2015 about stress in the public sector found that 76% of people took less than a half hour break per day, and 19% took none at all. A further 77% felt overworked and 53% felt stressed a lot of the time.
In the North East depression is a particularly acute problem amongst older men, and nationally is a big problem for teenagers in a more interconnected world. Every day dozens of colleagues say “hi, how are you” as they walk past, expecting the usual “fine, you?” If they stopped walking and really listened to you, would they hear more than you’re letting on?
It’s thought that one in four of us will have mental ill health at some point, but our culture stops people feeling able to talk openly. The truth is that we all have mental health just like physical health. We all get ups and downs, with feeling stressed or low as common as the cold.
That’s why we’re launching our Keep Your Mental Healthy campaign. Over the next few months we’ll be:
- Looking for mental health champions to provide other members with support;
- Running awareness events and talks on mental health;
- Offering stress support groups and safe spaces for you to be open;
- Lobbying management and councillors to make the mental health of our workforce a priority;
- And providing access to training, support and guidance when need it.
Mental health charities
Scottish Association for Mental Health website - https://www.samh.org.uk/
Mind (mental health charity) - https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/
Mental health at work
How to be mentally healthy at work - Scottish Association for Mental Health - https://www.samh.org.uk/documents/HowToBeMentallyHealthyAtWork.pdf
Time to change - https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/
There For You - UNISON support services- https://www.unison.org.uk/get-help/services-support/there-for-you/
Samaritans - http://www.samaritans.org/
Elefriends - an online community for those struggling with mental health - https://www.elefriends.org.uk/
Thomson's Solicitors advice on stress (UNISON legal cover) - https://www.thompsonstradeunion.law/media/1173/stress-a-summary-of-the-law-thompsons-solicitors.pdf