Mental Health and You - Tracy Walters, Careerwave
A recent report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Care Fit for Carers (April 2020), has found that 50% of care workers are suffering mental health problems as a result of Covid-19. Worryingly, about one-fifth of those polled said that dealing with this crisis had made them more likely to leave the health professions. When the NHS is already experiencing skills shortages in key professions like medicine, radiography, midwifery, nursing and, ironically, the wider mental health team, this would hugely affect capacity to deliver services, especially if coronavirus remains a part of our lives for the foreseeable future.
These statistics do not come as a surprise given the public’s exposure, through our ‘real-time’ media coverage, to the current conditions faced by our health and care professionals. We are all aware of the horrific experiences of frontline key workers and the associated physical and mental impact. Picture the haunting selfies of health workers showing the deep facial red lines from protective goggles cutting into skin and the anguish and tiredness etched onto faces. These photographs are reminiscent of those from a war zone. Therefore, it is not surprising that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is being widely reported.
However, it would be wrong to assume that mental health issues in the workplace are health and coronavirus specific. They are not. Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, Health and well-being at work (2019), found that mental ill health is increasingly identified as a main cause of both short- and long-term absence from work across all work sectors. Some of the key findings were;
- Stress-related absence has increased over the last year in nearly two-fifths of organisations (2018-2019).
- Heavy workloads remain the most common cause of workplace stress.
- Between 2018 to 2019, nearly three-fifths of organisations have seen an increase in the number of employees reporting common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
- Most organisations reported that they were increasing awareness of mental health issues across the workforce.
- Less than half of organisations provide mental health training for managers to support staff with mental ill health, and/or for staff to build personal resilience and/or to provide mental health first-aiders. However, the provision of training is a growing trend.
It is clear that we are becoming more aware of the importance of well-being and mental health at work. Also, as a result, organisations are doing something about it. The NHS is one such organisation. In April 2020, the NHS launched a mental health hotline for healthcare staff, as part of a package of measures to support them as they help people deal with the virus. A team of 1,500 volunteers, from charities like The Samaritans, Shout and Hospice UK, will staff the phones to provide a listening ear and psychological support. Other measures include partnerships with Headspace, UnMind and Big Health to give staff a number of free, self-help ‘apps’ offering guided meditation, tools to battle anxiety, help with sleep problems and more.
Reflecting a greater national awareness of the importance of well-being and mental health, 2020 also saw the launch of a web-based campaign called One You. The campaign gives parity to both mental and physical health in a holistic ‘well-being’ focused website. Within, it provides the general public with loads of great information and advice about how to maintain a healthy life. It is also a complete central resource providing links to other supportive organisations and a list of some amazing interactive apps designed to help. With respect to mental health, the section called Every Mind Matters is a reliable go-to place for up-to-date expert advice and practical tips.
As an example, there are 4 superb articles about well-being and coronavirus;
- 10 tips to help if you’re worried about coronavirus
- Looking after children and young people
- 7 simple ideas to tackle work from home
- Mental wellbeing while staying at home
Whether you’re a health and social care worker, a parent, a friend, relative or, indeed, anyone else, accessing the website and having a look around is highly recommended. You will find quizzes, a mind plan, many well-written articles, advice on how to help others and, crucially, a key link for those needing urgent help. This support is for life, not just for coronavirus!
Finally, if you need any more motivation, here is another huge reason to take well-being and mental health seriously- simply, it is good for your career. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report (2018) identified emotional intelligence (EI) as one of the top 10 skills for employees. EI is about perceiving, using, understanding and managing emotions. In an increasingly automated workplace this very human attribute has become sought after by employers. People who are emotionally intelligent will be more able to manage their own stress and anxiety and be able to support colleagues to maintain their well-being. The implication here being that you can’t be emotionally intelligent without recognising the importance of your own well-being and maintaining it.
The mental health hotline is 0300 131 7000 and is open between 7am and 11pm every day, while the text service is available 24/7 by simply texting FRONTLINE to 85258.
Tracy Walters is an experienced and qualified Careers Advisor, working with Careerwave to support schools, sixth forms and colleges to make sure that their learners get the best impartial advice to set them on the right path or the future. You can find out more about the services that Careerwave offer on their website, careerwave.co.uk or by following them on Twitter at @careerwaveuk