Mental health and wellbeing at work are increasingly on the agenda within the social sector as we face into the pressure of funding cuts, work longer hours to get jobs done, and try to deliver the best services we can under pressure.
You would think that, as people who support people, talking about our mental health would be easier than say, within the corporate world. But that's not the case. In fact, anecdotal evidence suggests that organisations which work on social issues and support vulnerable people often neglect their own staff wellbeing needs, whilst corporates - alive to the need for good retention and high productivity - are leading in terms of actively investing in wellbeing initiatives which prevent escalation of mental health needs.
At Renaisi, our fledgling wellbeing initiative has already produced some interesting findings which mirror some of Louise Aston's :
1. As a group of sociable and supportive individuals, we care about each other, but don't always know how to approach if we see that someone is upset or stressed.
2. When we become overwhelmed by stress, we find it difficult to tell our managers about the extent to which it is affecting our health - and might choose to call in (physically) sick instead of talking about what's really going on.
3. Those of us managing like to think that we are approachable, but are not necessarily sure of the signs of stress or depression and how to intervene.
4. Finally, within our conversations, we've realised that a focus on wellbeing isn't just about prevention. It actually supports all other areas of our work - our motivation and confidence, teamwork, professional aspirations and investment in the organisation's future.
You'll notice that I mention stress here rather than mental health per se - and perhaps that's key here, as I've noticed that stress unchecked is often a precursor to anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Also, perhaps we're more comfortable talking about stress as a way into more serious mental health conversations.
Whilst it's difficult to talk about vulnerability at an individual or organisational level, I'm excited by the opportunity to explore this further - building awareness, connection and resilience as the backbone to our social outcomes.
“Progress will only happen when employers approach mental ill health as they would physical ill health; doing what they can to prevent ill health occurring or escalating, and ensuring proper support for employees when it happens. Employees must feel that the workplace is supportive of, rather than, detrimental to their mental health.”