The Mental Health Foundation recognises Mental Health Awareness Week, 8-14 May as an opportunity to raise awareness of and mobilise efforts in support of mental health issues, with this year’s theme being Surviving or thriving’. We all have mental health to consider; our ability to think, feel and act in a way that allows us to enjoy life and deal with the challenges that come with it. In today’s technology driven, fast pace of life, we can easily be misled in to assuming that ongoing stress is the price we have to pay to keep our lives on track. The Mental Health Foundation did some research and found that levels of good mental health are disturbingly low, demonstrating we are surviving but not quite thriving as a nation. Reasons for poor mental health across young adults can be ‘due to greater insecurities in life expectations for work, relationships and homes’.

Rachel Liptrot, HR Senior Business Partner here at Interserve Learning & Employment provides us with an insight in to mental health in the workplace and how to cope with it. . .

Mental Health in the workplace

Rachel promotes wellbeing and healthy living to all our employees and saw this opportunity to highlight just some of the more common types of mental health and the support that is available should they feel that they are at risk of or already experiencing any mental health symptoms.

Do you worry too much? How common is generalised anxiety disorder?

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a relatively common anxiety problem, affecting approximately three to four percent of the population. About twice as many women as men suffer from GAD.

Most research shows that generalised anxiety disorder begins between childhood and early adulthood and fluctuates over the lifecycle. It is diagnosed when someone spends at least six months worrying excessively about a number of everyday problems.

Some research suggests that genes play a moderate role in GAD or a major traumatic or stressful event may trigger it. GAD rarely occurs alone and is often accompanied by another anxiety disorder, depression, or substance abuse. These other conditions need to be treated along with GAD.

What are the symptoms of GAD?

Many unpleasant symptoms may accompany generalised anxiety disorder and include:

  • Headaches
  • Trembling, twitching
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweating
  • Frequent need to use bathroom
  • Startled easily
  • Lump in throat, difficulty swallowing
  • Sleeplessness
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

How can I overcome mental health issues?

  • Speak to someone. Seek support from your GP, line manager, family or a colleague
  • Exercise. Making time to exercise regularly can support with anxiety so why not go for a walk with your colleagues at lunch time or have a walking meeting?
  • Relaxation techniques – It is difficult for some people with generalised anxiety to settle down enough to have quiet, reflective time where they can become calm, relaxed, and feel peace and tranquillity. Learning strategies to calm down and relax can support you to overcome anxiety.
  • Psychotherapy – Psychotherapy involves talking with a trained mental health professional to learn new strategies to deal with overwhelming anxiety. Generalised anxiety has been shown to respond best to a type of psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). In CBT, the person gradually learns to view situations and problems from a different perspective and learns methods and techniques to reduce anxiety.
  • Medication – Medications for reduce anxiety, commonly the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been found to be helpful in treating GAD, but this is to be discussed and agreed with your doctor. .
  • Self-help and support groups – Self-help methods and support groups may also be helpful. Treatment and medication need to be tailored to the person, so it is important that you work closely with your doctor (and/or therapist) to clarify the best treatment course for you.

We support mental health awareness here at Interserve Learning & Employment through providing all of our employees with access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) through their membership to a Healthcare programme.

Looking after staff and their wellbeing should be a top priority for all employers all year round. When employees feel that they are valued and being supported, they tend to have higher wellbeing levels.

If you do want to consider how to look after your mental health more in the workplace, visit the ‘top tips for staying well at work‘ page to de-stress in five minutes or less.