Mental health issues have never been taken as seriously as physical health issues – especially by workplaces. But one in six employees are currently suffering with a mental health problem; be it anxiety, depression or stress. That means that one in six workers won’t be able to perform at their best.
Internal communications has a huge role to play in correcting this. Did you know that one in five of us don’t feel comfortable enough to talk to our manager about mental health issues? IC has the power to pave the way for colleagues to feel comfortable enough to ask for help.
So, how does that work in practice? Firstly, all colleagues need to know that the business will take mental health issues as seriously as any physical health issue. Does your company have a mental health policy? Who should an employee talk to if they are experiencing mental health problems? Our role as IC professionals is to make the answers to all these questions obvious for all employees.
But there’s also a more subtle (and arguably more important) role for IC professionals to play in helping colleagues treat mental health issues in the workplace. The current culture of suffering in silence puts an obligation on others to help recognise the signs of someone suffering from stress.
As an IC function, we need to make sure that line managers are able to identify signs of excessive stress and make sure they are able to offer advice and support. According to Mind, the mental health charity, there are a number of warning signs to look out for that all stem from a change in the way someone acts. They may:
- Take more time off
- Arrive for work later
- Be more twitchy or nervous
- Suffer from mood swings
- Be withdrawn
- Lose motivation, commitment and confidence
- Have more emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive
By keeping mental health awareness at the top of the agenda, IC can help normalise conversations about these issues. This is the only way that we can begin to change a deep-seated culture of suffering in silence – but changing corporate culture doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why it’s important to educate and empower line managers to look after their colleagues and talk to them about any potential concerns.