For the UK workforce, the challenge of mental health at work is significant.
There is an ongoing stigma that prevents an open discussion on the topic. And with more people working longer hours, uncertainty in job security and a lack of understanding about mental health, this a problem which has repercussions for both employers and employees.
On a basic level, all humans really need to survive is air, water, food and sleep. We need to sleep every night to give our body important R&R, among many other things. And research has shown how getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for our mental health and wellbeing.
When we sleep well, we’re more likely to have greater concentration, be in a better mood and get things done. In contrast, when we don’t, we can really see and feel the opposite effect. While we all have a poor night’s sleep from time to time, we know that people in prison and forensic mental health hospitals in the UK struggle more than most.
It’s estimated that one in four adults will experience a mental health problem in any given year. Despite this, there remains a stigma attached to opening up and speaking about our mental wellbeing.
Today, we’re marking Time to Talk Day, encouraging us all to have a conversation about how we’re feeling. We asked four experts at IGHI about their experiences, insights and advice on speaking up about mental health.
By Dr Emma Lawrance, IGHI Mental Health Innovations Fellow
It is the cliche refrain that every new generation hears: “You don’t know how lucky you are. Back in MY day…” [insert terrible circumstance here]. And young people today are indeed lucky in many ways, with new opportunities facilitated by new technologies always emerging. But they also face rising mental health challenges. Levels of emotional distress are increasing in UK youth to the extent it’s oft branded a “crisis”.
The finger of blame is pointed to numerous potential causes – increased pressure in the schooling system, social media and cyberbullying, unstable employment prospects.
By Justine Alford, IGHI Communications Manager
All around us, technology is making our lives easier. Google Maps has allowed us to ditch the A-Z; apps can bring you everything from takeaways to taxis; Alexa won’t let you forget your anniversary again; the World Wide Web is your never-ending guide to everything on this planet and beyond; the list is seemingly endless.
Yet while many of us may be most familiar with the convenience and shortcuts that everyday technology bestows us, its potential to positively impact our lives stretches far beyond this. Arguably one of technology’s greatest assets is that it is an enabler, allowing ordinary people to do more.
Imagine this hypothetical scenario: a group of researchers are working on novel ways to detect early warning signs that a patient’s condition is getting worse. They think a wearable device that automatically alerts both patients and healthcare professionals to potential problems would be an innovative solution to enable earlier detection.
So the team members put their heads together and come up with a new wearable sensor that they think would greatly benefit patients and professionals alike. But when they test it with patients for the first time, they don’t get the feedback they’d hoped for. Users find it awkward, difficult to set up, clunky and uncomfortable.
By Lily Roberts, NHS Digital Academy Teaching Fellow
“I’m really struggling, is someone there?”
“Hi there, my name is Sophie and I’m here for you tonight. Tell me a bit about what’s on your mind.”
“I can’t cope anymore, I just want to end it all…”
While this exchange is fictional, it is a representation of a very real problem.
By Dr Emma Lawrance, Mental Health Innovations Fellow
These are hyper-connected times. We’re told we can get what we want – from dinner to a date – at the tap of a phone screen. And yet, even with the world seemingly at our fingertips, when we are in an emotional crisis or struggling with our mental health, it can be hard to know where to go. And hard to know what to say, when one of our loved ones is brave enough to express what’s truly on their mind.
By Dr Lindsay H Dewa, Research Associate, NIHR Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre
“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching
” than to say “My heart is broken
It’s December, sweaters brandishing pompoms and sparkles are being obnoxiously paraded around offices, the scent of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts oozes from street corners, and that nostalgic Coca-Cola advert is back on television. These can only mean one thing: Christmas is just around the corner.
For many of us, this is an exciting and eagerly-awaited time of year that brings happiness, closeness and reconciliation. While for others, the festive season and the stresses and strains that accompany it is a recipe for mental ill health, and can exacerbate conditions such as anxiety and depression.
So as feelings and festivities grow, we can use this time as an opportunity to reflect, consider others and think about what needs to be done to improve mental wellbeing.