The Covid-19 pandemic is having a devastating effect on the world’s health, economy, travel movements and our social lives. Its safe to say, we are in the depths of a tough, long fight to recovery which must be fought on several fronts.

We are now in week three of the UK lockdown and anyone with children like myself is probably one tantrum away from wrapping them up in sellotape and putting them in a cupboard to get five minutes peace (maybe that’s just me).

Stories in the news consistently show the public’s frustration with the tough restrictions put in place around social distancing with a percentage of the population still making unnecessary trips outside of their homes just to get out of the house and stay sane.

Statistics around the demand on mental health services are staggering with many charity/support organisations seeing call volumes double as many people struggle in isolation.

A personal story

From the outside, it probably looks like I have a good life (and I do), I have an amazing wife and son, new car, great house, great job and I go on holiday every year…. Which many people can only dream of – I consider myself fortunate.

Anyone I know will tell you I’m a private person, I don’t use social media other than LinkedIn, I don’t openly gush about my family, give lengthy details of how I spend my spare time or the possessions I own.

I don’t offer up much easily so I certainly don’t feel comfortable talking about my mental health, but I want people to know this is from personal experience and is a subject close to my heart.

1 in 4 people are affected by mental health and I am one of them.

Most people I work with probably have no idea but I suffered from depression for around 12 months, despite being incredibly grateful and having an overall happiness with my life. I had….

A feeling of being alone despite an amazing wife and supportive family.

A feeling of lethargy and lack of motivation despite an interesting and challenging job.

A constant low mood and lack of enthusiasm.

Feeling little pleasure from the things I enjoyed.

Avoiding social interaction.

Just because things look OK, doesn’t mean they are OK.

Share & show support

One of the greatest learnings from this ongoing experience is that sharing really does help. That’s true now more than ever – our mental health is without doubt as important as our physical health during this battle. It doesn’t have to be a huge outpouring followed by group hugs but just saying “I’m not OK” can make a real difference.

Even if it’s a bad meeting, a bad day or deeper, longer feelings of feeling down, talk about it.

Fortunately, at the time I was struggling, I worked in a business that was incredible and had some impressive support mechanisms coupled with a culture where people actually gave a crap. That’s not the same for everyone and often work is the only form of support.

As employees we should look out for one another. If we notice someone isn’t their usual bubbly self then take 5 to buy them a coffee and ask if they are ok. In today’s world of remote working, skype them and have a virtual coffee break.

Be proactive and share your own stories so others feel more comfortable talking about themselves.

Encourage your employer to support mental health initiatives and make it an active part of your culture.

Employers

We all know employers have a duty of care for their employees.

In a time of crisis this will be pushed to the absolute limit. With many managers having to manage remote workers for the first time, dealing with mental health can be challenging. But the basics should be the same.

Defining a comprehensive EVP should include things like mental health, work environment and workplace culture. The right mechanisms should be in place every day, crisis or not.

Specific items to consider as part of an EVP in relation to mental health can include:

  • Mental health first aid
  • Mental health champions
  • Mental health support lines
  • Regular team building exercises focused on mental health

These are all great ways to ensure when someone is struggling, they have somewhere to turn.

 

The Simplify Way

This article is based entirely on my own experience and I recognise everyone is different so I encourage you to share….I don’t proclaim to have all the answers but hope this makes one other person share their story.

What we can do is support businesses in defining their own EVPs as part of their operating model, support project delivery and share our own personal experience, so you are better positioned to support your employees.

…please get in touch with the Simplify Team.

Article written by Nick Clarke – Head of Frameworks at Simplify Consulting

Simplify

NHS One You

Mental Health UK