Thank you to everyone who supported my first ever blog, it has inspired me to continue to writing and sharing my journey in the hope will help others to reach out and seek support if they need it and encourage leaders and managers to take action around mental health. I recently read a report by Business in the Community. They found a gap between aspiration and reality for workplace mental health:
- 58% of senior leaders and board members think their organisation supports its staff but:
- 42% of employees with no managerial responsibility believe that their organisation supports its staff and:
- 20% of employees feel that their manager is not concerned about their wellbeing (BITC Mental Health at work report 2018).
In my experience…
Having spent the last 16 years working as and alongside managers and leaders I have been reflecting on this and what it was that helped me when I was struggling with my mental health while in work and crucially came to the conclusion that leadership is absolutely key because it creates the workplace culture. I personally:
- Felt able to disclose and discuss my mental health with my manager and other senior leaders in the organisation (which being honest was slightly scary – but provided a firm basis of understanding and trust when I did need support)
- Felt able (for a period of time) to manage my mental health through support that was easily accessible and available. Being able to access counselling within 2 days was one factor that enabled me to continue in my role for a further 6 months (My wait for Counselling from the NHS was 4 months for computer based and 8 months for face to face and this is not a criticism in anyway, I will always be grateful for the services and support I have received)
- Retained my dignity and respect from the continued belief I received in me as a person
And this was created by leaders in the organisation. Because when you have leaders:
- who demonstrate time and commitment to wellbeing and mental health
- who make themselves available and accessible to talk to about it
- who lead and champion wellbeing and mental health initiatives
- who by their own behaviours lead by example and show it is acceptable and more than that important that you have a work life balance
- who ensure that there is a focus on prevention and support is available
- who are aware of warning signs, confident to talk about mental health and aware of and can access organisational support available
- who genuinely care because they ask you how you are doing and listen to you
…. it makes a huge difference
….it creates a culture of openness, acceptance and trust.
This may not come easy to some of us and if I am being honest it didn’t to me (I wasn’t great at the work life balance – my own decision, drive and perfectionism) …. that is why I believe it’s so important that we:
- Increase awareness and understanding of mental health across the whole organisation (not just senior leaders and boards)
- Help develop leaders and managers confidence to be able to have discussions about Mental Health
So, on National Stress Awareness day, what can you commit to doing in your organisation to close the gap between aspiration and reality?