In August, several Capital colleagues attended a Mental Health First Aid course run by Mind. Our Marketing Assistant, Rachael, looks at what she’s taken away from the course – and how we can help break the stigma of mental health.

When we consider physical health, we know that someone doesn’t have to have a diagnosed medical condition to be ‘unhealthy’. Someone who’s overweight, a heavy smoker or a binge drinker might not have been diagnosed with anything – but they’re probably not very ‘healthy’.

 Equally, someone who has been diagnosed with a medical condition – like diabetes or asthma – might manage it well, and live an otherwise healthy lifestyle. 

The same goes for mental health. It’s important to recognise this distinction when looking at the impact mental health (poor or otherwise) can have in the workplace. 

Mind recently surveyed 15,000 employees and found that 1,763 identified themselves as having ‘poor mental health’. 

They also found a difference in causes between men and women. A third of men blamed their job – and were unlikely to take time off to seek help (only 23% said they’d been absent as a result). Women, on the other hand, tended to find their jobs, and problems outside of work, equally stressful. Men also felt less able to talk about their job’s impact on their wellbeing.

Why is this?

Is our attitude towards men, and their ‘role’ in society, damaging their ability to speak up? After all, men don’t get colds, they get ‘man flu’. They’re consistently told – in all areas of life –to ‘man up’. It’s almost as if having poor mental health is a character flaw – and definitely not something to talk about. 

The survey highlighted how only 1/3 of men and 38% of women felt their organisation’s culture made it possible to speak about mental health issues. 

So, how can we change this culture of silence in organisations?

I recently attended Mind’s Mental Health First Aid course, and learnt some practical pointers. The below are a good starting point for all employers to consider.

•Think about the language you use when describing mental health issues – some slang words portray negative attitudes towards mental health

•Look at your policies – how can you make them easier to understand and more approachable for people suffering from poor mental health?

•Get people at senior level on board and get them talking about mental health

•Help end the stigma and prejudice surrounding mental health by raising awareness in your organisation and equipping staff with factually correct information

•Educate and inform line managers on mental health so that they can champion it within their teams

•Ask people to openly share their experiences of poor mental health.

 On 21st February 2012, Time to Change Wales was launched as the first national campaign to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health. Their website has lots of information on how you can get involved, end the stigma and share your stories and experiences.

Suicide is the largest cause of death in men under 50. It’s time to stop ‘manning up’ – and start speaking out.