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Caitlin from BEIS Discusses Mental Health at Work

Category: Employer Focus

Image of the words mental health on a red background

This week my organisation, BEIS, awarded me for supporting my colleague through mental ill-health. My organisation supports and cares about its employees’ mental health enough that it publicly awards managers for spending their time on supporting colleagues with ill mental health – brilliant right?! The result? My colleague is returning to work feeling engaged, valued and more determined than ever to work hard for the organisation. I am feeling equally engaged and valued, and I am motivated and determined! I hope to help remove the barriers which people who suffer from ill mental health face every day in the workplace. Why? So that more people’s lives can be actively improved through their working environment and organisations can benefit from a healthier, more engaged workforce.

Part of this determination saw me complete my training to become a qualified Mental Health First-Aider this week. Friends, colleagues and family have asked me with varying tones of confusion “what does THAT mean?!” I am here to tell you.

The focus of a mental health first-aider is the same as that of a physical health first-aider; to provide the initial “first-aid”. In mental health this is about helping someone who is developing a mental health issue, is experiencing a worsening of a mental health issue or an individual who is in a mental health crisis. Mental Health First-Aiders, like me and the 2,200 others across Government, are able to provide the first-aid required until the appropriate professional help is received or until the issue appears to have been resolved.

Why is this important?

  • Mental health illnesses are common yet we are still discriminating against people with mental ill health in the workplace.
  • 1/3 of the public think that those with mental health conditions are violent. The truth is you are as likely to be struck by lightning as you are be confronted by a mentally ill person.
  • 91 million working days are lost annually to poor mental health and it costs the economy £30 billion each year.
  • 1 in 6 adults are affected by the symptoms of mental ill-health such as stress, sleep deprivation, fatigue, loss of concentration etc. at any one time.
  • Suicide is the most common cause of death in men aged 20-49
  • Over 20% of people in the UK have suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives. I am no statistician but the impact is clear. Take a look around you – 1 in 5 of your family, friends and colleagues have had or will have suicidal thoughts at some point in their life.
  • Only 30% of people who die by suicide have been in contact with mental health services in the year before their death.
  • As a nation we are not talking about mental health enough.

Mental health is not black and white. There are no neat boxes to categorise conditions or symptoms and it is not always obvious if someone is suffering with their mental health. Everyone will experience it differently at different times in their lives. Diagnosis is difficult and finding the most effective treatment can be even harder. But the help is there – it comes in different forms for different people. At BEIS, and many other organisations across the UK, thanks to Mental Health First Aid England, Mental Health First-Aiders are part of that help. So next time you’re not feeling as good as you should, reach out! It may just help.

I want to leave you with this: We all have mental health. Every single one of us. That includes you. You do not need to be suffering with a diagnosed mental health illness; mental health is just like your physical health, it will have its ups and downs and requires some looking after. Do something today to positively affect your mental health – Personally I am off in search of some tasty lunch!

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

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