It’s in the news almost every day and affects everyone in some shape or form. In this article, Amy, a manager at Attain, shares her experience and highlights what organisations can do support their people.
Amy shares her first experience, prior to joining Attain, with work-related stress and highlights the importance of both recognising it as well as being aware of the support that might be available.
“I will never forget the moment about three years ago, while I was driving home from work when my vision darkened and I suddenly experienced unusual tingling sensations in my fingertips and toes.
“Minutes later I luckily managed to park in a local business centre where I knew my friend worked and I called her. When she picked up the phone I was hyperventilating and by the time she got to me she had to call an ambulance because my breathing was so out of balance that my toes had splayed and my hands and arms had curled into my body. I couldn’t physically move, and I thought I was having a heart attack. I thought I would never see my little girl again.
“Later I learnt after discussion with the paramedic that I had experienced a panic attack, triggered by severe stress at work.”
Speaking up about mental health at work is exactly what mental health experts are advising is the way forward to reduce stigma and drive change in the workplace.
Every 40 seconds, someone, somewhere dies through suicide
Poppy Jaman, the Chief Executive of City Mental Health Alliance, and previously co-founder of Mental Health First Aid said in a recent podcast published by The Kings Fund
, that every 40 seconds, someone, somewhere in the world, dies by suicide. She says mental health issues are a widespread and a global problem across all sectors of industry. Mental health is present in all parts of society, including parents, colleagues at work and throughout communities.
Creating ‘integrated lives’ at work
The NHS Long Term Plan recognises that mental health is a significant issue and is committing to significantly increasing investment by 2023/24.
More workplaces are adapting and evolving to create ‘integrated lives’, blending work and home in an agile, family friendly and caring responsibility friendly way, aiming in turn to increase the performance of their employees.
A major biomedical research charity ‘The Wellcome Trust’ announced recently that the Trust was exploring a move to a four-day week for its staff
. The director of policy and chief of staff Ed Whiting said “Like many organisations, Wellcome is continually looking at how we can increase the impact we make towards our charitable mission and improve staff wellbeing. Moving to a four-day week is one of a number of very early ideas that we are looking at that might be beneficial to welfare and productivity for everyone at Wellcome.” Unfortunately, the proposals have since been dropped as the plans proved unworkable.
What can we do to support our personal wellbeing?
Amy says: “In my experience, it has taken a number of years to build the knowledge and the networks of support that I needed to begin to put in place appropriate strategies to manage the stress I was feeling.
“I had the resources to get private counselling so I didn’t have to sit on waiting lists. Sadly, this isn’t a privilege that many have access to. I learnt how to ‘stop’ and relax, which takes a lot of practise for some people.
“For me this involved disciplining myself, including not to log on in non-working hours. I rescued a dog and walk her daily and I joined a boot camp to get exercise in. I created ‘empathy’ calls with people who were willing and able to give me time when I needed it to just listen to what was going on for me.
“After a time these calls became reciprocal as my mental health wellbeing became more balanced and I found I could give back. In fact, I started to volunteer with a local Alcohol Project in the Community, supporting individuals who are in recovery from substance misuse and mental health issues.
“Most importantly, I changed my job and began working for Attain. I soon became more resilient to pressure.
Working for an organisation that acknowledges mental health
“Our jobs can be complex, timebound and pressure filled, and that won’t change anytime soon for me in the world of procurement.
“However, it feels manageable now because I have a supportive team around me and I work for an organisation that acknowledges mental health and puts ‘wellbeing’ at the heart of its values that are lived at all levels of the organisation, which makes the world of difference.”
Lead by example
We can and should ask ourselves two important questions; What impacts or improves your mental health and wellbeing?; What else are we willing and able to do to step up into this space and support each other and our organisations to ensure we are all valuing our own and each other’s mental health wellbeing at work and home?
Attain provides mental health and learning disability provision across the full spectrum of services for children and young people, working age and older adults, and people with dementia, in community, inpatient, specialist and secure settings. Find out more here.