Mental Health Awareness Week
This week (18th-24th May) is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. Now more than ever, with so many of us feeling isolated and fearful at home, it is a good opportunity to raise awareness for mental wellbeing – both in a personal and professional capacity.
With a theme of kindness, this year’s awareness week focuses on reaching out to those around us, developing community spirit and strengthening relationships in these challenging times. Mark Rowland, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, commented,
“Protecting our mental health is going to be central to us coping with and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.”
Coping with COVID-19
The pandemic has caused a lot of stress, anxiety and fear for us all, whether it’s about catching the virus, financial troubles, job security or losing a loved one – everyone has been affected in some way. In fact, an acas-commissioned YouGov survey found that half of those working from home felt isolated, and seven in ten were missing social interactions at work.
Counselling psychologist, Dr Lucy Atcheson, says that one of the main problems with lockdown living is that we start to miss “micro-lifts” – small things throughout our day that help to lift us without even realising. She explains,
“You’re on your way to work, you might pop into your favourite coffee shop or say hi to someone in the street, there are small little things throughout our day that help to lift us often without us even realising. When you’re alone at home that doesn’t happen – and the cumulative effect of that is massive. So instead we need to create micro-lifts. That might be a new exercise, learning a little bit of a language, talking to someone on FaceTime or joining a book group online.”
The importance of kindness during tough times was highlighted by the Mental Health Foundation, who found that 63% of 4,256 adults polled agreed that receiving an act of kindness from another or being kind to others had a positive effect on their mental health. Mark Rowland, Mental Health Foundation Chief Executive, commented,
“To have a major impact on improving our mental health, we need to take kindness seriously as a society. In particular, we need to make kindness an important part of public policy. The pandemic is an opportunity to do that. Kindness can play an essential role in reducing the social, economic and mental health consequences of the crisis, that could last for years to come.”
The pandemic has shown a real sense of community spirit, connecting those who wouldn’t usually be in contact and helping those most in need. We have evolved to behave in ways that promote the survival of our species, and acts of kindness have played a crucial part – including businesses donating essentials to key workers and the speedy production of ventilators for the NHS.
Workplace mental health
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 70 million working days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK – costing employers around £2.4 billion each year. Fortunately, more and more businesses are starting to tackle the problem head-on, with the likes of company wellness schemes, the introduction of mental health officers in the workplace and increased flexible working.
As the situation evolves and lockdown measures start to ease, many companies are starting to plan for the eventual return to the office. Perhaps businesses that prioritise the wellbeing of their staff during such a turbulent period will build a more positive company culture, and strengthen employee loyalty post-pandemic.
Workplace experts, Acas, have published new guidance to help employers and employees support mental wellbeing while they are working from home or on furlough. Take a look at the guidance here. We’ve also put together a thread of top tips for looking after your mental health at home – head over to our Twitter feed to take a look.
If you are in need of mental health support, you can contact charity Mind by calling the helpline on 0300 123 3393, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or texting 86463. The helpline is open Monday to Friday (except bank holidays), 9am-6pm.