Last week was Mental Health Awareness week. This was a great opportunity to learn that mental health is something of immense importance, affecting millions of people, and something of which society and politicians still require further education. Rather than affecting “only” the individual with the diagnosis, employers are starting to realise that the myriad of mental health illnesses negatively affects them, due to staff absenteeism, loss of productivity and turnover. This epidemic is causing a loss to the UK economy of around 4.5% of GDP, equating to $128.745 billion.
I personally have a passion to ensure positive action is taken for mental health best practice. Now that we can begin to talk about mental illness, it is critical that the topic does not fall by the wayside for the remaining 51 weeks of the year. Mental health is a topic for everyone; those either with a diagnosis, friends, family or employers.
Given each person “knows” 100 people, then each person knows approximately 25 people who have, have had or will have mental health problems. Last week I attended a conference held at UBS by Employees Matter. It had a tremendous impact on me, opened the eyes of the audience and increased knowledge of the different types of mental illness; with speakers diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression and Bipolar 1. Each of the professionals were incredibly brave and open regarding how the conditions had and still do affect their lives. Of course, emotionally and physically the effects were painful and exhausting. They spoke of how it affected their careers, their relationships and those around them. But with professional help they are coping and managing their lives. Key was also how their employers engaged with diagnosis and treatment plans. They were all very intelligent people. They all managed other people. They were not threatening to anyone else. They were inspiring and extremely brave.
One thing that resonated with me is that mental illness does not happen in isolation. It can impact anyone. This got me thinking, and, as you do, looking up the current facts of the linkages between mental health, domestic abuse and coercive control. People who are victims of domestic abuse of any kind are 68% more likely to experience depression. Statistically, this speaks volumes: 58% of abused women miss at least 3 days of work a month, 16% of men are affected by domestic violence during their adult lifetimes and 75% of people who endure domestic violence are targeted at work. Abuse wasn’t mentioned the UBS/Employees Matter event, but perhaps that’s an indication of how like mental illness, domestic abuse is something hugely stigmatised.
I am energized to take forward the messages I heard and experienced all of last week: let us erase the stigma of mental illness and find pathways of support and care through education and action. It will help those who are fearful and ignorant take action too. Let us listen without judging. Let the Government and employers help employees through noting difficulties and enabling access to professional treatment quickly and have the compassion and care to walk the journey with us.
MD – Media Evolution Ltd
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