The theme for this year’s Mental Health Day is young people and mental health in a changing world. The world, inside and outside of work, is evolving at a quicker pace than ever before. Some of the most popular job titles of today (app developer, big data engineer) didn’t exist ten years ago, and it’s likely that the jobs we will be doing in the future don’t exist yet.
In and out of work we’re spending more time online than ever before and in Ireland the amount of people suffering from anxiety and mental health disorders is rising. The 2016 Census reported a 29% rise in mental health issues, while a recent survey reported that over half of Irish people were uncomfortable speaking about their mental health issues.
Young people are suffering in a way we haven’t experienced before. In 2008 most teenagers accessed the internet via a family computer or laptop – less than 15% used the internet on their phones.
Ten years later, in 2018, a survey in the Netherlands reports 29% of young people would describe themselves as addicted to social media. In Ireland, 16% of people look at their phones over 100 times a day, so it’s no stretch to believe our young people’s addiction could be even more than the 29% reported in the Netherlands.
Overuse of social media and our phones has been connected to anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, restlessness and missing out. A problem that needs to be addressed, but what can we do as employers to minimise employee’s mental health issues?
Here are some ways to reinforce and encourage positive mental health and well being in employees across all generations:
3 ways to encourage workers to look after their mental health
An easy to remember way to look after your own and others mental health is to “ask, listen, talk.”
- If you’re feeling down ask for help, or if you think a co-worker of friend is suffering ask them if they’re ok. A simple are you feeling ok? can make all the difference.
- If you think a colleague or friend is suffering listen to them in a non-judgemental way, try and hold back with suggestions and instead let them voice their fears.
- You should also listen to yourself. If you’re increasingly stressed or worried about work listen to yourself and readjust your schedule. Practising mindfulness or meditation or including a small amount of exercise each day can be a great help.
Ireland has come a long way when it comes to talking about mental health issues, but we still need to improve.
- Talk about feelings and wellbeing with your colleagues and those in your social circle. If your work in HR or a senior position encourage others to talk through events or wellbeing initiatives, such as mindfulness seminars or an employee assistance program.
- It’s also important to talk about expectations and to remind workers that being online and available 24/7 isn’t healthy or beneficial.
- By talking we can further normalise the remaining stigma around mental health. If an issue is more serious always contact a professional – Pieta House and Lifeline in Northern Ireland have 24-hour phonelines.
In a recent Cpl survey, over 60% of workers said they don’t feel like their employer contributes to their wellbeing. In a time where our health is valued more than ever, and mental health pressures are on the rise, World Mental Health Day is an opportune time to Ask, Listen and Talk and to embrace workplace wellness as an important asset.