Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, a study carried out by YouGov in Scotland found that 74% of people felt unable to cope because of stress. Lee Knifton, Head of Mental Health Foundation Scotland said ‘Stress is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time, but it still isn’t being taken as seriously as physical health issues.
‘Stress can be a significant factor in mental health problems including anxiety and depression. It is also linked to physical health problems like heart disease, problems with our immune system, insomnia and digestive problems.’
In addition to this, 4,205 UK adults were questioned as part of the Aviva Wellbeing report and results found that 67 per cent suffered from stress and 64 per cent had depression.
Associate Medical Director at Aviva, Dr Subashini M., explained: ‘Our mental health is as important as our physical health, however too many people find themselves suffering in silence, with nowhere to turn for support or feeling as though they can’t discuss how they feel.
‘Nearly half of us have been, or will be, affected by mental health conditions at some point in our lives, yet for the most part, there is still a distinct taboo in many circles.
‘A persistent pattern of not directly acknowledging and addressing our own - and the UK’s - mental health issues only further reinforces stereotypes and taboos’
There are many different causes of stress, and the effects of stress are different for everyone. However, one of the most commonly reported causes of stress is work-related.
According to Mind, ‘one in six employees in the UK are living with a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or stress but do not feel as if they can discuss it. In addition, only one in five felt like they were in position where they could tell their manager if they were stressed at work and less than half of those diagnosed with a mental health issue had told their manager.’
What can, and should, employers do to help support their employees with regards to stress management?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests the following:
1) Reduce work-related stress by:
. Making staff healthier and happier at work
.Improving performance and making staff more productive
.Reducing absence levels
.Reducing workplace disputes
. Making the organisation more attractive to job seekers
2) Conduct risk assessments for work-related stress and take actions to prevent staff from experiencing a stress-related illness because of their work.
For more information on how to conduct a risk assessment, go to www.hse.gov.uk/stress.
Although it is important not assume, it is useful to be aware of some common signs, symptoms and behaviours that may indicate an employee is struggling with stress. It is also important to be aware that, even if factors outside the workplace are affecting an employee, employers should still be prepared to offer support.
Some signs to look out for:
• changes in the person's usual behaviour, mood or how they interact with colleagues
(e.g. sudden outbursts of anger, unusual displays of emotion)
• appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and reduced interest in tasks they previously enjoyed
• changes in productivity and attention to detail
• changes in appetite and/or increase in smoking and drinking alcohol
• an increase in sickness absences and/or turning up late to work.
• changes in appearance
Organisations should encourage staff to talk to someone if they think they are becoming unwell through stress. This could be a line manager, a colleague, a member of the Human Resources department or their GP. It is important to offer help in finding the best type of support for that person.
If offered by an organisation, information about Employer Assistance Programmes (EAP) or counselling / employee support services should be made widely available and assessible to all.
If such services are not available within the organisation, or employees don’t wish to access the services provided then signposting to National Counselling Society (NCS) gives them access to a register of qualified, experience counsellors who can help!
To find a counsellor via the National Counselling Society (NCS), click on the following link:
References & Further Information:
• Mental Health First Aid - www.mhfaengland.org.
• Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - http://www.hse.gov.uk/.