Today is World Health Day, and it’s time to start thinking about the changes you can make in your workplace to help support the cause. World Health Day is organised by the World Health Organisation, and this year on April 7th, they will be urging people everywhere to open up about depression and other mental health problems with the theme “Depression: Let’s Talk”.
Of course, depression affects people from every walk of life, whatever their personal situations, but the office can contribute to poor – or good – mental health. In fact, the mental health charity Mind says one in six workers is dealing with a mental health problem right now.
Luckily, there are loads of things you can do to start providing your workers with the support and atmosphere they need to improve or maintain their mental health.
1. Be open.
This first issue is more preventative than anything else. Create an open, engaging atmosphere at your office. Make it clear that staff can come to you to talk about issues they’re having that might be affecting their work, without the fear of being stigmatised or fired.
And create a culture that encourages worker engagement. That means employees feel “respected, involved, heard, well-led and valued.” Make sure the traditional barriers that keep managers above and away from staff are as low as possible, so workers feel supported before they develop mental health problems.
2. Be supportive.
Of course, work is not the only place where stresses can lead to depression, so you must know how to handle it when an employee does develop an issue. Train managers and other leaders to spot the signs of depression, so they can act quickly and sensitively.
Talk to anyone you think may be suffering. Take them to a neutral, but private place (preferably away from the office), where you can talk frankly about what may be troubling them. Make it clear that you want to create a wellness plan and that their job is secure, so they feel more comfortable opening up. Then work with them and any healthcare professionals they are seeing to create an actionable plan to help them as they recover.
3. Be flexible.
Creating the plan might well be one of the more difficult parts of the process, since every person will need different things. One person might need to work from home, while another would prefer to stay around people. One person might need a rigid schedule, while another would need flexibility to handle panic attacks or avoid potentially fraught situations like rush hour traffic. One person might just need some out-of-hours talking therapy and a quiet space to gather themselves when they get overwhelmed, and another might need to go to several appointments during the working day.
Build support into the plan. Whatever their issue, they are likely to need support with their workload, and they might also need a coach, a friend or a mentor to talk things through with. Also create specific goals and times to check in with them, so you can make sure they are recovering or get them more help if they aren’t.
Just remember that they need to be involved in the plan.
Depression is a debilitating and sometimes deadly illness, but with talking therapies and appropriate amounts of medication, it can be treated. You can learn more about how to support your workers and support the WHO campaign at the World Health Day website here.
And whether you or someone you know needs help, #LetsTalk. After all, it’s always good to talk.