THE BLOG

Does Your Boss Care About Your Mental Health?

11/10/2017 11:54 BST | Updated 11/10/2017 11:54 BST
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Tuesday 10th October was a big day for a few reasons. Three reasons actually, but they do say three is the magic number.

First of all, it was my lovely Mum's birthday. She does read these posts, so I won't write how old she is out of fear. I had some flowers and a personalised Moonpig card delivered to surprise her, and beat out my younger brother as best child.

It was also the day I paid my very first installment of council tax, a monumental day for me as a real-life, working adult.

Finally, Tuesday marked national Mental Health Awareness Day.

If you've read my previous blog post (some shameless self-promotion), then you'll know I am a strong believer that mental health is a subject that we need to talk about, and keep talking about. I saw Snapchat stories, tweets, news articles, Facebook posts and hashtags dedicated to today, full of inspirational messages and calls for mindfulness.

Don't be ashamed to ask for help, get some fresh air, take your medication, wash your hair and be kind. A lot of powerful advocates shared their own experiences and advice through positive messages, it was great to see how far we've come in the last few years with mental health awareness.

According to mind.org, one in four of people in the UK will experience a mental health problem. Let's say you work with 15 other people; at least two or three of your colleagues are or have suffered with their mental health this year.

Do you think your boss would care?

I am very fortunate to work in a company with kind people from top to bottom of the hierarchy, but as life has a cruel way of trying to test you, I have realised that not everyone is as fortunate as me.

I'm going to tell you a little bit about Eliza. Well, for the sake of anonymity, I'm going to refer to her as Eliza.

Eliza is struggling with her mental health at the moment, and this struggle is being worsened by her employers. She's had a tough run in the last few months, and as a result is finding it difficult to overcome it.

Now, Eliza's employers are aware of her struggles, after seeing first-hand that Eliza isn't in the best mind-frame on a number of occasions.

Eliza tries to be friendly and chatty on her good days, and she keeps to herself on her bad days. She doesn't have the best relationship with her co-workers, and doesn't feel she can open up about her problems. She had a spurt of courage last week, and actively raised her situation to her manager, and was told to 'toughen up and get on with it'. Eliza now doesn't want to talk to anyone about her mental state, because she feels nothing will change, no one gets it.

How did that make you feel, did it sound familiar?

Whether you're an Eliza or your desk is next to an Eliza- there is a good chance you can do something about it. Mental health problems are not treated the same as physical health problems in every work place. A broken leg is given sympathy, yet sometimes anxiety is given an eye-roll and a muttering of 'she just wants a few weeks off'. While acknowledging mental health is real and affects at least a quarter of us is an important first step, being given an opportunity to perhaps make someone's life a little better, and taking it, is the second.

Whether it's organising an informal one-to-one with your team members to check they're doing okay, or asking your colleague how she is, sometimes a little compassion can make the biggest difference. If you can see someone you work with is really struggling and your managers don't care - speak up. Find someone higher up the ranks that will listen. My Eliza doesn't have anyone in her office who is prepared to do this, and although it's upsetting to realise, her situation is replicated up and down the country.

We spend around 40 hours a week with the people we work with, and it's easy to ignore that little warning sign, but we all have the responsibility to ensure mental health isn't a blanketed subject. Don't be like Eliza's colleagues, if you can make a positive difference, big or small, then why wouldn't you do it?

Mental Health Awareness Day highlights that MH doesn't discriminate against anyone, whether you're an Eliza or the Prince of Wales. It's important to remember that your colleagues, like your friends and family, might need a shoulder or a smile sometimes too.