Mental health in the workplace – The irrefutable issue
A few months ago, I was having a really tough time. I found myself waking up in the morning feeling sick, dreading the day ahead. Regardless of the kind faces around me at work, I was afraid of being seen as a liability. Or at least that’s what I thought would happen if I was honest about how I was feeling. I felt obligated to paint a mask on every morning that wouldn’t take a ridiculously expensive setting spray to keep in place. I didn’t want to be seen differently, or treated differently just because of my mental health. I thought, my mental health isn’t an appropriate topic for the workplace, right?
Mental ill health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, meaning that the workplace is exactly where talking about mental health should be appropriate. There is so much stigma attached to mental illness that we forget that it’s exactly that, illness – and should be treated as you would do any other, regardless of its visibility.
1 in 6 British workers are affected by mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression every year. Take a look around you. At how many people are in the same room as you, even at how many people are sat around the same desks? This highlights that mental illness doesn’t make you unable to work, it just means we need to take action to create the right environment to let these people work. This irrefutable issue is exactly why it is imperative that mental health stigmas are alleviated within the workplace, in order to maintain a stable, comfortable and healthy environment for all workers.
It makes business-sense to prioritise employee’s mental health for the company’s success. It has become too normalised to show up to work and push on, continue to ‘hustle’, rather than recognise when you need to slow things down and take care of yourself. This has become a concept you might have heard of called ‘presenteeism’. Much like ‘absenteeism’, the terms refer to attendance or lack thereof. Absenteeism refers to the lack of attendance without valid reason, presenteeism refers to attendance when you should probably be at home but came into work/school anyway. Whether that is because of a physical ailment like a cough or a cold, or in fact a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression, it’s on the rise. More and more people are turning up to work with a mask on to hide how they really feel, and I think this is an issue that can’t be ignored. Don’t you agree?
I’m lucky enough to have developed an honest and open relationship with my manager and colleagues. I am able to express how I feel without the feeling of judgement or being made to feel like a liability, but rather something that is important to the company, as my recovery and success in turn affects the company’s success. I sadly can’t say that this is an experience found in all places of work. But I think that with more awareness, will bring more willingness to improve and make the workplace a less stigmatic, uncomfortable place for people struggling with mental illness.
If you’re looking to learn more about mental health in the workplace and see what you can to do improve the environment within your business, please take a look at the #timetochange campaign that inspired me to bring my passion for mental health awareness into the workplace and challenge the stigma surrounding it. It’s time to tackle the culture of fear and silence and its effects on our colleagues. After all, we’re not just workers, we’re people and need to be supported in our roles as well as our lives.
This blog was written by Aisha Bushell, Recruitment Coordinator in our Internal Communications Team.