By RSK Human Resources Director Zoe Brunswick
The theme for World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2020 is “Mental Health for All: Greater investment – greater access”. When I first saw this year’s theme, my initial thought was that this sounds like a huge, albeit very worthwhile, challenge. To see the results this statement strives towards, a gigantic investment would be necessary globally. After all, mental health issues affect us all, no matter where we are in the world. About 450 million people live with mental disorders (World Health Organization (WHO) world health report, 2001) and one person in every four will be affected by a mental disorder at some stage of their lives (WHO, 2012).
Then I thought how appropriate this message was to our business and probably to hundreds of other organisations internationally. We are committed to investing in mental health support (“greater investment”) and want all our employees to feel they have somewhere to turn to and someone to talk to, should they need it (“greater access”). The theme works not only on a global scale, but also on a smaller community level. If we break the target down and all do our bit to make it happen, it suddenly becomes far more achievable. Interestingly, mental health challenges can be faced in the same way: broken down into smaller problems, our struggles often become suddenly much easier to manage.
The impacts of lockdown and the uncertain times we are all facing this year are affecting the mental health of millions of people around the world. According to research by mental health charity Mind among over 16,000 people, more than half of adults (60%) and over two-thirds of young people aged 13–24 (68%) said their mental health worsened during lockdown. As a result of the pandemic, some of us have developed new mental health problems and others with existing issues have more severe symptoms. Lockdown brings isolation and loneliness, and difficulties in reaching out and finding help. It is often harder to speak directly to friends and family or for those close to us to ask the all-important question, ‘Are you ok?’. For this reason, it is increasingly important that we invest in mental well-being and ensure that everyone can access the support they need when they need it. It is no use worrying about the effects of COVID-19 on our physical health if we are not also looking after our mental health.
In recognition of World Mental Health Day, RSK has developed mental health toolbox talk and mindfulness moment presentations and resources that will be available to all employees throughout October. These can be used by individuals to learn more about mental health or delivered by teams, departments or offices as an online or virtual training session. Our internal network of 50 well-being champions, together with our 66 trained mental health first-aiders, will be on hand to champion this initiative and provide support to anyone in the group.
On 8 October, RSK’s well-being team delivered a well-being webinar, which served as an opportunity to connect with colleagues, raise awareness of the important topics around mental health and bring a little peace and serenity to everyone’s busy week with a guided mindfulness moment. Staff members have also shared their personal experiences of mental health challenges, which we regularly encourage at all levels, as a means of removing the stigma associated with mental illness and fostering open communication.
It is small steps like these, taken by organisations that care about their employees, that could really make a difference on an individual level. If our efforts mean that one employee finds the support they need, then it is worthwhile. Multiple businesses, communities and individuals taking these steps could help several people, and, before long, the numbers will build up to the global effect that we should aim for. Helping more people will contribute to reducing the current figure of 800,000 people that die by suicide every year.
So, what investment are you making this World Mental Health Day?