Journal: World Mental Health Day at Houst

October 10, 2018

Mental health issues affect 1 in 4 people in the UK every year (and 1 in 6 people in the last week alone).

It's crystal clear that this is a subject that needs to be discussed more publicly and a few weeks ago Anna Roe, the Head of People at Houst, did just that when she sat down with Houst's CEO James Jenkins-Yates to openly discuss her own experiences with mental health and share her wisdom with everyone in the company.

Anna's inspiring talk, and her responses to questions from Houst staff watching around the world on live stream, was full of advice, honesty and strength. Today (10th October) is World Mental Health Day, and to mark the occasion, here are some key things we learned from Anna's talk a few weeks ago:  

1: Self-understanding can be key to improving your mental health. 

Everybody has mental health, it can get better and worse just like physical health. But just as the same type of exercise doesn't work for everyone wanting to stay fit, the same approach to mental health won't work for every person. "Understanding a lot more about how my mental health impacts my life, and making smarter life choices to deal with that" was a key turning point for Anna – learning more about the things that affected her mental health by speaking to someone about it. 

2: A mood diary helps to keep track of how you're feeling over time.    

“One of the tricks I’ve found really helpful is keeping a mood diary", Anna explained. She uses an app on her phone that sends her notifications to check in with how she's feeling. It only takes a second each day and can be really useful for recognising patterns or periods of low moods that you might acknowledge otherwise. "You're not going to be happy every day of your life," says Anna, "That’s not real. But what is real is making sure that I’m aware."  

3: Ignoring a problem doesn't mean it'll go away. 

It can often feel easier to sweep our issues under the carpet in the hope that we'll forget them and they'll eventually disappear – but there's no guarantee this will work and pretending everything's fine can in fact make things worse. In Anna's words: "The experience of facing what I’m dealing with head-on, rather than ignoring it anymore or being embarrassed by it, is what’s changed how I deal with it."

4: If you're experiencing mental health issues there are ways an employer can – and should – help. 

In the UK, since the 2010 Equality Act, if your mental health is having a long-term impact on your day-to-day activity, then an employer has a responsibility to offer you certain forms of support. “From an employment perspective," Anna explains, "mental health conditions have in recent years been classed as a disability, which comes with certain obligations for employers. One of them is what’s termed “reasonable adjustments” – this is something that is deemed reasonable as an employer to make your life easier.” This could mean allowing an employee to work from home on certain days, or offering some time off to rest during a stressful time.   

5: Managers and business leaders can learn how to help their teams.

If you are responsible for a team at work, learning to spot the signs if someone who reports to you is experiencing difficulties can allow you to make the right changes or offer the right support to improve their situation and help them get back on track. Anna explains: "It’s really important to let your team know that you’re there for them. Look for the things that you can potentially see. Does someone feel different as a person? Has their level of motivation changed?" 

However, if you think someone isn't in a good place, knowing what to do next can be a challenge, especially if they don't seem open to help. Anna's advice is to show that you care, and to listen: "Take them out of the work environment, and just ask how they’re doing. It’s so important – sometimes you’re just waiting for someone to ask that.”

For more information about World Mental Health Day, visit the World Health Organisation (WHO) website or search #WorldMentalHealthDay on Twitter. 

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