Why Mental Health is Everybody’s Business

The statistics surrounding mental health make a sobering read. In 2018 there were 6,507 suicides in the UK, a rise of 10.9% on the previous year. To put this into context, road deaths in the UK accounted for only 1,770 incidents in 2018.

It’s about time we made mental health everybody’s business, as small changes can make a big difference.

Recently, I have been lucky enough to become a mental health first aider through a course run by Mental Health England. Before this point I am the first to admit, if I noticed someone was ‘a bit down’ I would just tell them to ‘cheer-up’. Partly, this was because I didn’t know how to respond appropriately, but also because I didn’t recognise the signs of a potentially much deeper issue.

I attended the course because a some of our staff at d&t had needed to take time off this year. 132 days off sick to be precise. As an employer beyond providing leave, I felt helpless to offer the support they really needed. I didn’t know how to ‘say the right things’ or how to deal with the situation. Knowing what I do now, I feel I could have helped refer these valued individuals earlier and assisted them on their road to recovery much sooner. Therefore, I’m keen to share some of what I’ve learned and encourage other franchisors to attend similar courses, as even if they can help just one person, it will be worth-while.

Firstly, it is important to realise just how widespread mental health issues are. Suicides are three times more prevalent in men than women, with the 45-49 age range most at risk. But really anyone can suffer mental health issues at any time. I do believe technology has played a part. Mobiles mean we are always contactable; it makes it hard to switch off. Similarly, firms are working ‘leaner’ and trying to do more with less resources and this all adds to the pressure staff and franchisees face on a day-to-day basis, which can compound with lesser strains.

The second step is to recognise signs that an employee, franchisee or colleague is struggling. Signs are varied but might show as a change in demeanour, mood or habits. They may become more insular and take themselves off at lunch time, when before they were part of a group. They may start arriving consistently late for work and leaving early. Sudden weight gain or loss can also be a sign. In fact, any changes to the norm could indicate someone is facing challenges.

The next point is to check in with them. “I’ve noticed…” They may open-up immediately, or not, but you need to make them feel comfortable to do so. Give them your full attention, by turning off your phone or shutting your laptop. Make sure they know you have time for them, and they are not an ‘inconvenience’ and that the conversation is between you and them and not ‘on behalf of the management’.

If it becomes clear there is an issue, then making them feel like they are not alone is key. It is also important to ask the question ‘have you ever felt suicidal?’ If they say yes, you should ask if they have a plan. Referring them for help requires them to recognise and admit to themselves they need that help.

The Hub of Hope https://hubofhope.co.uk/ is a good place to start. “Let’s ring them together…” can be the start to providing them with the qualified help they need to get better. It’s an app and online portal that is a national mental health database, bringing together organisations and charities from across the country who offer mental health advice and support, together in one place. It allows people to find services nearby.

Noticing the signs early and being able to help by listening may make people feel ‘all is not lost’. It is also not just people who seem ‘down’ that should be a cause for concern. Sometimes, if someone has visibly become more cheerful, it may mean they have made a plan to end their current situation.

As franchisors we have a duty of care to our franchisees, over and above helping them to earn a living. This will invariably be one of the most stressful periods of their life, having invested savings, inheritance or having quit their day job. As a preventative measure, it is important to encourage staff and franchisees to take good care of themselves. Food, diet, health, fitness all plays a part, as does simply going for a walk at lunchtime or taking time out to a chat with friends.

It’s a legal requirement to put the first aid certificate on the wall, but its also now time to take mental health just as seriously and let franchisees and employees know help is available. One tip we learned on the course, was to put notification of where to go for mental health help, on the back of the toilet door.

According to the mental health charity Mind, one in four people will experience a mental health issue each year. I hope this article has inspired some franchisors to take a mental health first aid course for the benefit of their franchisees and staff. Together, we can work to end the stigma by making mental health everybody’s business.

Originally posted by Business Franchise Magazine https://content.yudu.com/web/64r9/0A43vgb/BFMAR20/html/index.html?page=18&origin=reader