When mentally and physically healthy, we are productive, resilient and able to realise our potential. We are equipped to play our role in society; applying our skills to work, social interactions, family responsibilities and wider community roles. It is therefore in our everyone’s interest to do what we can to keep ourselves and others healthy.
As World Mental Health Day #WorldMentalHealthDay is recognised around the globe on Sunday 10 October, we explore this year’s theme: Mental Health in an Unequal World.
Good Days, Bad Days
We all have times when we wish we could just curl up under the duvet and escape the world. A few nights without sleep or dealing with a rude customer at work or an unexpected incident can knock us back. For some the dip is temporary; resilience kicks in and life moves on.
For others, the battle is harder, the knocks keep coming and negative emotions take hold. Neurosis, including anxiety and depression, prevent people from undertaking everyday activities. They are the cause of absenteeism from work, isolation from social groups and a building sense of hopelessness.
Whilst poor mental health does affect people of all ages, races, classes and genders, discrimination plays a part. Certain groups are more likely to be affected. This is not because of a weakness of character or lack of self-care, but because they are marginalised in society.
Inequality and the Impact on Mental Health
The Centre for Mental Health prepared a Fact Sheet highlighting Mental Health Inequalities. It illustrates that UK citizens from the Afro Caribbean and LGBT+ community, along with children with learning difficulties or from households in poverty are at greater risk of mental health conditions. What do these, and other higher risk groups, have in common? Discrimination.
The attitude of others makes these groups more likely to be at risk of job insecurity, bullying and harassment and oppression. Faced with constant barriers, they are prevented from having the same opportunities to realise skills and build confidence.
People from marginalised groups are less likely to admit difficulties or access services when they are struggling. The reasons include fear of being judged, fear of losing their job and fear of the stigma which could accentuate problems.
What is most shocking about the data, is what happens when they do seek help. The quality of care received is not consistent. Those who are in greatest need of compassion and support are less likely to receive it.
This final point is reflected in evidence shared in The Health Foundation report; Inequalities in Healthcare for People with Depression and Anxiety. This report shows the clear correlation between deprivation and both long term health conditions and poor mental health. Although levels of prescribed medication were higher in areas of deprivation, the level of care provision was not.
Part of the reason is under-resourced mental health care. Even when people can book a GP appointment, the understanding and available sources of support and limited. This means that individuals, organisations and employers need to step up to enhance wellbeing for all.
Listen with Compassion
As a colleague, neighbour, friend or relation, we can make it a mission to become better listeners. Sometimes a conversation is all it takes to turn things around. Ask people about their day and be willing to stop, make eye contact and listen. Push distractions aside and avoid jumping in with your contribution. If they present a problem, ask them what they want to happen. Can you help them to make the first step?
Tackling Inequality at Work to Enhance Wellbeing
Every employer should make the following five actions commonplace in their organisation:
- Pay the living wage as a minimum and provide training and development opportunities for all members of staff.
- Develop a company culture, where employees feel able to speak up about issues such as harassment and discrimination, knowing they will be heard and the issue tackled.
- Provide team leaders with Mental Health training, so they are equipped to spot the signs, direct individuals to appropriate support and keep the conversation flowing.
- Recognise individual’s skills, attitude and effort by providing positive feedback and thanking them for their contribution.
- Make reasonable adjustments to the work environment or work hours to open up job opportunities to a wider selection of candidates. We explore this concept in greater depth in our Workplace Inclusivity
Wear a Green Ribbon #PinItForMentalHealth
The international symbol for Mental Health is the green ribbon. One simple step that you can take to raise awareness and show you care is by purchasing a green ribbon pin. Wearing this can start conversations. As we talk about mental health, it breaks down the barriers and fears that surround what remains a taboo subject.
All funds raised support the Mental Health Foundation’s preventative work, which focuses on people living in unfavourable social, economic and environmental circumstances. That is one easy way to mark World Mental Health Day.