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Tackling Mental Health in the Workplace

It may no longer be Mental Health Awareness Week, but with new and devastating figures recently published in BIMA’s The Voices of the Industry Report, an in depth look at mental health within the tech industry, we can hardly be expected to put the topic safely back to bed, only to be taken out to play with again when its token week of attention returns next year. At DRPG, mental health is both a top priority within the company and something we offer solutions to for our clients.

 

The stats showcased by the BIMA report highlight all too clearly why we are right to be facing this issue head on:

 

  • 52% of all respondents have suffered from anxiety or depression at some point, a figure at least five times more than the national average.
  • 28% of respondents say they have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
  • 43% of those revealing such a condition say their career has been negatively affected by it.
  • 45% of respondents feel there is not enough awareness and support for mental health within their company.

 

The tech and creative industries are often so concerned with being “cool” and “innovative” that they confuse this with being socially aware. Dress-down Fridays and beers in an outside space will not solve inherent mental health issues that run through a company affecting all levels of employment from CEO to AE - methods to combat mental health issues must be implemented.

It is sad to note that all too often, those offering advice, help and support on mental health issues and those championing the cause in the workplace are the people who the system has at some point let down. Listening to the panel who make up the BIMA Council, it is all tales of breakdowns, burnouts and tipping points… this is a clear indication that something must be done to reduce the number of people getting close to this point.

 

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Solutions:

Normalisation

Changing the culture of mental health has been a focus for many over recent years and this is so important in the workplace. Feeling unable or uncomfortable to speak about mental health must become a thing of the past and boundaries must be broken down through education.

Consistency

It is easy to focus on the issue for short periods of time when it is in the public eye and for it to then sink back into the background, but consistency is key when it comes to tackling mental health. The conversation must be given a priority all year round and at all levels.

Vocabulary

Often people are frightened to talk about mental health due to the sensitivity of the subject and the room for error, stymied by the propensity and inevitability of offending. It is important for all to become familiar with the accepted vocabulary of mental health to help ease the conversation.

Responsibility

While initiatives like those available at DRPG such as mental health first aiders and education on the matter are key parts of the solution, we mustn’t stop here and shouldn’t leave the responsibility to these individuals. It must be a joint effort and a company wide responsibility to monitor colleagues’ mental health in a subtle, non-intrusive way. Ask how people’s weekends/ evenings/ holidays were and really listen to the answer. Go for lunch with those who often eat alone, offer a tea or a coffee to someone you work with and make sure that you are aware of the general feeling of your team. These are all small things that could make a big change to someone’s vulnerability to mental health issues.

Authority

The push must come from the top, carrying the weight of authority and not be the sole responsibility of those lower down the employment ladder. If the leaders are putting their weight and resources behind initiatives, the uphill struggle to tackle mental health in the workplace will be made all the easier.

"It is easy to focus on the issue for short periods of time when it is in the public eye and for it to then sink back into the background, but consistency is key when it comes to tackling mental health. The conversation must be given a priority all year round and at all levels."

Across the board, the solution lies in education and openness. It might be a “tricky” conversation, but it is a conversation that needs to be had consistently, openly and by everyone within the workplace.