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Wellbeing at Work: Meet Our Mental Health First Aiders

2020 was unsettling and for many people, their mental health has suffered as a result. We caught up with our three Mental Health First Aiders to talk about the significance of positive thinking in the workplace, and how to stay connected with your colleagues 

When Covid-19 struck the city of Wuhan, China in December 2019, the world paused to acknowledge the unfamiliar threat, but quickly moved on with daily life. It’s not uncommon to flick through our television channels to be met with a serious breaking news story – however, it is unusual to find ourselves facing a pandemic sweeping across the globe at an alarming speed.  

For manycoronavirus hasn’t only posed a threat to their physical health. It’s also threatened their emotional wellbeing and overall quality of life. For these individuals, it’s not just life before 2-metre rules and restrictions on the sales of toilet rolls they miss. It’s the conversation – the warmth – that comes with a friendly face and a cup of tea. 

Covid-19 has affected everyone across the UK in one way or another. Whether it’s caused organisations to let go of valuable employees, families to feel disconnected or generally brought about an ongoing feeling of despair – it’s been difficult for most to say the least.  

The silver lining to the new, unfamiliar reality we find ourselves in? We’ve had to take a step back, slow down and realise what’s truly important. We’ve come to realise how important it is to take care of ourselves, and each other. As a community, we’ve started to acknowledge that it’s not unusual to experience mixed emotions in a very uncertain situation. We’ll be a little kinder to ourselves and to those around us – both in and out of the office.  

Last October, we introduced our very own Mental Health First Aiders to Superior Healthcare. With World Mental Health Day on October 10thwe wanted to highlight the importance of wellbeing at work and encourage our members of staff to take that first step if they’re not feeling like themselves. 

What is a Mental Health First Aider? 

Internationally recognised, Mental Health First Aid training is designed to help people acknowledge and recognise the early (and often subtle) signs of a decline in someone’s mental health or overall wellbeing. Having completed this training, Mental Health First Aiders are able to provide immediate relief by way of a conversation and encouragement, before guiding the individual towards the appropriate support. 

Who are Superior Healthcare’s Mental Health First Aiders? 

Meet Emilie Bunting, Gemma Wade and Dawn Tompkins.  

Complex Care Team Leader, HR Officer and Relationship Manager respectively, Emilie, Gemma and Dawn chose to take part in our Mental Health First Aider training in order to provide support in a welcoming environment to those who would like it. Based at our head office in Whitstable, our Mental Health First Aiders are more than happy for members of our team to reach out and request a conversation with them. 

Why is it important to have Mental Health First Aiders at work? 

According to MHFA, there were 602,000 cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety across Great Britain in 2018/19. Over this period, 44% of all work-related ill health and 54% of lost working days were caused by anxiety or depression.  

While 69% of UK line managers state that providing support when it comes to employee wellbeing is a core skill, the statistics say otherwise. Only 13% of these line managers have actually received mental health training, and 35% expressed their wishes for basic training in common mental health conditions.  

What are the signs of poor mental health? 

While keeping busy might feel like a temporary relief to those suffering with poor mental health, it can also be difficult to focus, with people struggling to hold a conversation or stay productive. Here are some of the early signs of a decline in mental health: 

  • Poor concentration 
  • Easily distracted 
  • Increased worrying 
  • Problems with decision-making 
  • Lack of interest 
  • Low mood 
  • Feeling overwhelmed 
  • Feeling tearful  
  • Changes to sleeping (more or less) 
  • Lack of energy 
  • Less social interaction 
  • Irritability and aggression 
  • Finding it difficult to manage emotions 

What can you do to protect a colleague’s mental health? 

Get to know the people you work with and try to communicate openly with each other at all times. If you hold a team leader or managerial role, it’s worth setting aside time to have one-to-one meetings with the people you work with. Being friendly, approachable and patient can make all the difference to someone’s state of mind at work. Additionally, it’s always important to be aware of any changes in a colleague’s behaviour or personality, for example; you might notice someone is more withdrawn than usual, or noticeably tired and emotional. 

Kindness, respect and understanding can make all the difference, regardless of your working environment, and remember, that it’s not usually immediately clear if someone you work with is struggling with their mental health.  

What can you do to protect your own mental health? 

Reach out to someone – whether it’s a friend, loved one or colleague. You might be surprised by how helpful a conversation can be, and by the change in your mood afterwards. Please visit our website and read up on our mental health advice – there’s a selection of helpful posts that offer tips and suggestions as well as external resources depending on the route you wish to take.