According to the Mental Health Foundation, most assume that children grow up mentally healthy. The reality is a little different. Children are quite vulnerable to mental health problems as they don’t posses the key skills adults use to identify and solve problems.
In fact, of those aged 5-16, one in ten will experience a mental health problem, whereby 70 per cent fail to get the support they need. Without a lack of support early on, they will enter the workforce without wanting to reveal their potential need for help. We know how that story goes: it ends with a lack of motivation and a few unexplained absences.
So it’s better to nip the stigma of mental illness in the bud, Mandy Coppin, CEO of Streetwise, told Real Business. Young people feel surmounting pressure from the get-go. Their bodies are changing, their responsibilities suddenly increase and some face the stress of poverty or lack of finance. The world has also changed into one that expects so more from people.
Streetwise was created in the hopes of relieving some of the strain, in an effort to transition young people to adulthood through better support and education. But does Coppin feel mental ill health is being adequately tackled in the workplace? We found out.
Do you believe mental health problems in the workplace are getting worse, or is the UK making leeway?
I’m not sure if they are getting worse, but the impact of poverty and stress within the family are certainly having an impact on adults in the workplace.
What do you believe are the benefits of investing in employees’ health and wellbeing?
There are definite benefits of investing in employees’ health and wellbeing. We need to ensure our employees feel valued and respected and in return they value and respect each other and the company they work for.
Giving staff the environment they need to thrive has its benefits. It will allow them to be productive, think more clearly and be positive.
If money was no object, what health and wellbeing perks/schemes would you advocate employers have in place?
If money really was no object then I would invest in the likes of mindfulness support for staff, quarterly away days and team building activities, as well as staff rest room with relaxing materials and activities.
How important is emphasising support for staff?
Without support of staff teams, we would not be able to offer good quality support for young people in the North East, the quality of any project relies on strong, motivated, supported and respected workers.
How would you advise SME bosses to address staff mental health, especially in young people?
Make sure you have a solid health and wellbeing policy and procedures and ensure staff feel able to seek support and access support without feeling like it’s a weakness.
Is it often the case that people don’t realise what their own mental health situation is?
I don’t think this is always the case no. As an organisation we aim to encourage young people (13-25) to have a greater awareness and understanding of their personal resources in order to make healthy lifestyle choices; build their resilience, understand personal responsibilities, increase their self-worth, reduce risks and make effective decisions.
What do you think can be done to improve understanding of mental health illnesses?
Training and support to share information is essential. At Streetwise we offer services that enable young people to grow into healthy and resilient adults and our aim is to support young people to achieve a greater understanding of themselves and their relationship with the world.
What is the most common misconception?
That mental health is other people’s business but its everyone’s business. Mental health affects everyone at some time in their lives.
“People usually have no problem talking about feeling physically ill – because, that’s just biology, it’s fact, and it’s science.” This passage comes from an article written by Sarah Alonze, senior campaign director at Babel, around our lack of communication around mental health issues.