As busy professionals, we’re expected to have all the facts at our fingertips. Statistics, up to date information, informed opinion, not to mention a myriad of social media platforms. This all means one thing – our minds are overloaded with information, stressed to the maximum with data, details, facts and figures. And, inevitably, this all takes its toll.
In fact, statistics from the mental health charity MIND show that almost eight people out of every one hundred suffer from mixed anxiety and depression, while one in five harbour suicidal thoughts.
I believe that everyone of us is touched by mental ill health at some point in our lives, either personally, or someone close to us, whether that’s a family member or a colleague. On this basis, my statistic is that one in one people are touched by mental ill health. After all, we all have mental health. It can tip from mental health to mental ill health at any time and can affect anyone. Mental ill health does not discriminate.
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Of course, these alarming figures aren’t solely the preserve of professionals, although it is true to say that those who work long hours, particularly in critical environments and with tight deadlines to meet, are especially susceptible to mental health issues. Now, as someone who is only too aware of the stresses professional life can bring, this is an area that I am passionate about, as well as being committed to ensuring that people benefit from my own experiences of mental ill health.
With this goal firmly in mind, I set up my #OneMind Petition. Available to view – and to sign to show your support – at https://www.change.org/p/onemind-we-all-have-one-mind-and-we-need-to-protect-this-starting-in-the-workplace. My motivation is to require the UK government to change the law to make it mandatory for organisations to conduct annual mental health risk assessments in the workplace both on the business and its culture as well as well as individual assessments on every worker, like we are obliged to do with physical lifting, DSE assessments and with Fire Alarms which are all tested and reviewed on a regular basis.
This is a campaign which, in my experience as a solicitor and someone who have lived with anxiety and PTSD most of my life. As anyone who lives with a mental health condition knows, we have good and bad days, but sometimes these stretch to weeks and months so the support we need with vary massively. I have learnt so much from my own mental health breakdown several years ago and this has driven me to be a force for change, to help others and to raise awareness of the importance of investing in our own mental health but also those around us, especially in the workplace as we spend so much of our time at work.
I firmly believe conducting regular risk assessments, which will identify training and communication needs, will result in organisations adopting better processes and procedures, as well as signalling a more positive message to their existing and future employers and preventing a decline in their workers mental health.
In fact, more than anything, it is now becoming almost a competition between enlightened employers to provide the best possible environments in which to employ staff. This means that organisations are now actively beginning to recruit employees based not just on salary and other more obvious financial packages, but also their well-being credentials.
Positive work-life balance is a critical factor in achieving a lasting mental health equilibrium, both in the workplace and beyond. Imagine the scenario where you’re amply financially rewarded, and yet you’ve effectively “sold your soul”. This is all too common in our fast-paced professional sectors which is simply unsustainable.
So, my challenge to you is this. Let’s work to create a better, more holistic, sustainable workplace. Let’s strive to make mental health wellbeing the single most important ‘plus’ that attracts, then retains our staff, colleagues and employees. The result will be happier, more productive, more loyal staff, working in a happier environment, bringing with them happier longer-term clients.