Tis the season to be (not so) jolly: Mental health at Christmas

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Christmas can be a magical time of the year, but for some people it can be an emotionally challenging time and with pressure increasing year on year, it’s a time that can play havoc with our mental health.

Among the chaos of shopping, retail adverts, festive lattes and that image of a “perfect” Christmas; for some people, this time of year can conjure up feelings of dread, loneliness and sadness. Whilst Christmas is unavoidable, it is important to highlight that when it comes to festivities in the workplace, there are employees who struggle for various reasons, and the problem with this is that it is not always obvious as employees are often reluctant to talk about it which can make it difficult to offer relevant support.

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Living and working with Autism

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“Think of it: a disability is usually defined in terms of what is missing. … But autism … is as much about what is abundant as what is missing, an over-expression of the very traits that make our species unique,”

Paul Collins, Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism

A few weeks ago, I received a text message from my husband Mark, who insisted that we watch a programme on the telly that evening. He rarely does this so when I asked him about the programme and why he wanted to watch it, all he had to tell me was the title and I instantly understood why; the programme was Chris Packham: Asperger’s and me.

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Mentoring – it’s something HR are born to do

“Focus on what you have to offer rather than what you don’t have to offer”

When you went for your very first HR interview, how did you feel? Apprehensive? Nervous?

Looking back at that experience now, a few years later; a little bit older, much wiser; what do you think about it? Do you look back and laugh and think it’s crazy you were so nervous and unsure? I know I do!

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What I’ve learned from mentoring

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”    Bob Proctor

It’s no secret that I have mentored for a number of years as a CIPD Steps Ahead Ambassador and mentor; I am incredibly lucky to have met some wonderful people through helping over these years from different industries, career levels and backgrounds.

Recently, I have undertaken the responsibility of supporting my CIPD branch by coordinating a mentoring scheme which aims to encourage HR professionals to share their experiences with a view to helping them to progress their membership or careers.

The long and short of it is that some perceive mentoring as a time consuming and long drawn out process, with many struggling to commit the time to mentor. In reality, it only takes up two hours a month and sometimes it’s a simple case of assisting with a CV.

Being a mentor isn’t just about feeling good, it’s about experiencing different perspectives.

It’s certainly not a one sided relationship, there are so many benefits and I have learnt so much, not just about people, but about the differences in generations, how to expand on existing skills, recruitment challenges and of course about different industries. This exposure has also helped me within my career especially with benchmarking and best practice exercises.

As a mentor I am there to listen, to offer practical advice, offer constructive criticism (which in the right way, is a good thing), and to help in any way that I can. However, it’s equally important that your mentee offers a different perspective or insight into their career, industry and aspirations. Believe it or not, mentees can help mentors as much as they help you!

In respect of the branch mentoring, this is distinctly different to the work I have done with Steps Ahead; I find that peer mentoring, can sometimes be more impactful than a traditional mentoring relationship. It can strengthen your network, enhances leadership capabilities and most of all supports your peers; as a branch, we are growing and progressing together, and one day we’ll be leading together, so it’s important to help one another along the way; I consider it future proofing our profession by inspiring future HR professionals.

 

World Mental Health Day 2017

“Just because you are struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing.”

At least one in six workers experiences common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Research conducted by leading charity Mind, shows that 55% of employees surveyed said that work is the biggest cause of stress in their lives, more so than debt or financial problems.

Mental ill-health costs the UK economy £26 billion each year, this is through 91 million lost working days, staff turnover and lower productivity. With such staggering figures, it is within every organisations interest to establish ways to tackle the problem. What is really concerning is not just the prevalence of stress and mental health problems at work, but that employees don’t feel supported to be able to deal with these pressures.

The main causes of mental ill health at work are excessive workload, frustration with poor management, lack of support and unrealistic targets. Stress at work is also effecting people’s personal lives. One in five employees said that it puts a strain on their relationships, while 11% have missed important events such as birthdays due to work related stress.

Prince Harry has spoken publicly about the importance of mental health awareness amongst the armed forces; not just post career but has actively campaigned for mental health to become an active part throughout their career. This has lead to a review and implementation of new training methods and support mechanisms will also be rolled out to reservists, veterans and civil servants.

The starting point can be seen as difficult, but it does not need to be. Simply taking the time to speak to a colleague or manager to tell them how you are feeling and what your concerns are can help take that first step to improving mental health. It’s the little things that make the big difference, so if you are an employee reading this, your manager needs to know that you are struggling, if it is pressures with workload, they may be able to offer a solution. Likewise, if you are a manager yourself reading this, then you need to do the same, just because you have a more senior title it does not mean that you shouldn’t be able to address your concerns.

We must always keep in mind that mental ill health does not discriminate and affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives, this is why it is so important that we start these conversations to try and remove the stigma that is associated with mental ill health.

Mental health may be a hot topic but it is a very fluid subject, one critical point is to ensure that individual cases are treated as exactly that, as an individual. Just because one person has a condition, it does not mean that the remedies and supporting tools are the same. There is no one size fits all approach and therefore businesses cannot just roll out a wellbeing initiative hoping that it will work, the subject of mental health is ongoing and will be evolving at a fast pace for many years to come.

Mind has a fantastic guide to help support employers who want to promote positive mental health within their organisations; to access the guide, please click here.