A modern state of mind

11 October, 2017
Nancy Barnes, Global Head of HR
Nancy BarnesGlobal Head of HR

Modern life is stressful and today’s business environment can be a challenge. We live in an uncertain world and have to deal with many different factors that affect our state of mind: family, health, wealth, world events and our careers. It is no surprise that, at times, the pressure builds and something has to give. Human beings, while being incredibly resilient at times, are also very fragile. Like the most sophisticated machines, our bodies and minds need occasional maintenance.

We’re pretty good at dealing with a broken toe, a dislocated shoulder or a menacing virus, but when it comes to our own computers – our minds – we have difficulties in admitting and dealing with problems that can occur in any of us.

Earthport Bake Off
The Great Earthport Bake Off raised money for World Mental Health Awareness Day on 10 October 2017.
Photo: Salina Christmas

That’s why increasing attention is being paid to mental health, with a growing realisation that it is every bit as important as any physical ailment – possibly more so, as the brain connects to everything we do in life.

For too long, there has been stigma attached to having problems with our mental health. History tells us that we have often swept it aside into a dark corner, locking up people who are ill in satanic buildings tucked away from public view. Fortunately, that’s changed but we are still uncomfortable with the subject and that can only be remedied by being more open about how we are actually feeling.

The fact is, mental health issues can affect any of us and they often do. But there are a number of hurdles that begin in recognising that our behaviour, our physical well-being and our judgement are being compromised by our emotions.

In the workplace, people are invariably very reluctant to admit they might be depressed, over-stressed, acting irrationally or even behaving aggressively. This can be partly due to the competitive environment, the demands being made on people, inter-personal relationships or an underlying health or personal issue.

Whatever the reason, we have to be prepared to accommodate people that are going through personal trauma. This could involve helping to identify the problem, referring them to somebody that can provide professional help and mostly, by respecting that person’s condition and providing necessary support.

We all have to realise that it is acceptable to be ill, either physically, mentally or emotionally. Furthermore, by making everyone aware of the early warning signs, the symptoms and the treatment, the easier it will become to be sympathetic and supportive of colleagues that are going through a tough time.

Large companies have been making significant efforts to provide that support through specialist teams but in smaller organisations with fewer resources, it is vital that the culture of the company reflects an awareness of the topic and has clear procedures to support staff who find themselves in a difficult situation.

Quite simply, mental health is something we all have to look after. Nobody is immune but everybody can play a part in helping those who become ill.

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