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Mind control: An improved understanding of mental health conditions

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Is it often the case that people don’t realise what their own mental health situation is?

Absolutely! Many people say things like “I?m just being silly, I shouldn?t be upset by that” etc. When they are able to talk things through with an understanding professional, they usually realise that their feelings are normal and can start to recognise the issues and work through them. Having someone on hand to support and guide can make all the difference to empowering people.

How can a company make returning to work after a long absence easier for staff

All too often, employers assume people returning to work after absence for any reason will hit the ground running and be back to normal on day one. Whether the absence has been due to physical or mental health, the employee will naturally be anxious. They are likely to tire easily and find work more challenging than previously. Added to this, there is often a lot of concern about how their colleagues will treat them.

Employers should recognise that returning to work is a big step for staff and must be prepared to be flexible and supportive. However, many employers assume they know how best to help an employee, for example by giving them easy tasks or avoiding responsibility, but this can really upset an employee. Therefore employers can best help by asking what would work for the employee, many are surprised just how simple the answers are!

Additionally, it is very common for good support to be in place for a few days after the return to work, but checking in from time to time in the longer term is really important too.

What do you think can be done to improve understanding of mental health illnesses?

I think that this is increasing all the time, by the good work of charities such as Mind as well as public figures talking about it in the media. Health and Wellbeing audits are moving up the corporate agenda with more and more companies employing firms to carry these out, organisations such as CIPD and IIP also promote the importance.

As mental wellbeing is so fundamental to overall health, the increase in audits and recommended solutions will drive an improved understanding of mental health wellbeing. Excellent workplace mental health training is available from many organisations including the charity Mind and a new edition of MHFA Line Manager Resource has recently been issued.

What is the most common misconception?

I think the most common misconception that we encounter, is that it is a sign of weakness, that it’s the individual’s fault that they can’t cope, somehow they are inferior. All of these attitudes fuel the mental health condition and if help is not found can lead to severe long-term problems.

With the right help and support, feelings and concerns can be validated and people can begin to move forward.

How do you unwind after a tough week” Do you have any rituals to improve your mental health?

I find physical exercise and the outdoors is a great antidote to stress. So I go running regularly, get out walking in the Yorkshire dales as well as trying to keep on top of my garden. Exercise and fresh air are great ways to improve mental wellbeing, I also practice mindfulness.

Also, a good laugh with friends or a funny film can really get the happy endorphins flowing!

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