Mental wellbeing: thriving, not just surviving

We all have mental health. The lack of awareness and education around mental health is what spurred me on to propose researching it as a piece of thought leadership to our CEO James last summer.

And now here we are! A mental wellbeing audit which gives employees a voice to talk about their experiences and suggest what they’d like to see employers do to improve mental wellbeing at work.

Mental health isn’t just about the lack of illness, it’s about thriving and not just surviving. The workplace has a key role to play in this since many of us spend most of our time at work!

I’ve got various different experiences of mental health, academically from studying Experimental Psychology, practically from supporting people who have mental illness in psychiatric hospital, and also personally.

Many of us have these personal experiences that we keep to ourselves, sometimes out of choice but sometimes because we feel like we have to. I’d like to share a bit of my experience with you.

I’ve been struggling with anxiety since I was 13 (not that I knew it was anxiety back then). And I didn’t reach out for help until I was in my final year of university around 7 years later. It wasn’t easy asking for help, I was worried about how a doctor would react. Would they even believe me? And would they even know what was wrong with me?? But opening up to a healthcare professional was one of the best decisions I ever made. Last year was pretty rough for me, so I reached out to a GP again. I finally got to the top of the wait list for therapy (4 months later, but that’s another story!), but they only had slots available at 5pm so I would need to ask work to leave early once a week. I was really worried about that; I had no idea what the reaction would be. But when I mentioned it to James, he was completely fine with it. Those therapy sessions really helped me, but it was a challenging process, and sometimes you feel like it’s one step forward and two steps back, but it does get easier and quite honestly, it saved me.

I guess the main thing I wanted to say is that if you are worried about your mental health then talk to someone you feel comfortable and safe with about it, whoever that may be, and reach out for professional help if you think that would help you. There are people out there who can help you if you just ask, be brave, it’s worth it.

But asking isn’t always easy if you don’t feel able to express how you are feeling. The workplace has a massive role to play in allowing people to be their full selves at work, and has a responsibility to cultivate a culture of openness with mental wellbeing at the heart of it. I hope that our workplace wellbeing audit will help businesses really listen to their employees. And as a result accelerate a cultural shift within the workplace where mental health is not seen as something negative, but something common amongst us all, that we should embrace and nurture so that we’re not just surviving, but thriving. So that when people need help, they’ll feel able to open up about their mental health and get the support they need sooner.

If you’d like some more information on anything I’ve talked about, Mind have some great resources on their website here.

Author: Sophie Holland, Senior Research Executive