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January is always a low time of the year. Many of us have spent extensive time off work, enjoying the festivities with family and friends and now we’re staring at months of no holidays and cold weather. We’ve also just had Blue Monday, a day said to be the most miserable of the entire year. It even has its own equation:

[W + (D-d)] x TQ ÷ [M x NA]

W is the weather, D is debt, d represents monthly income, T is the amount of time it’s been since Christmas and Q is how long since your New Year’s resolution was broken. M is your motivational levels, while NA is the feeling of needing to take action.

Whether or not this equation has any real scientific weight behind it, the sentiment is familiar. Those feelings are common at this time of year and they can take a toll on our mental health, which can be exacerbated by our professional lives.

Primetics is having a week where we will be focussing on the mental health of our employees. With some help from the mental health charity Mind, we have come up with Healthy Minds Week, a week of mental health awareness activities and information. Newsletters, articles, management training, quizzes and much more. We will be rolling out our week of activities for each of the offices throughout February.

Activities and information

At Primetics, we rely on the well-being and mental health of our employees. Employees suffering from depression, stress and anxiety are not going to perform at 100%. It’s in our interest, as both a business and as concerned colleagues, to help our staff with any mental health issues they might be having.

We want to foster an environment where our employees feel free and able to talk about their mental health with us. In Healthy Minds Week, we are going to raise awareness with various activities:

Information: In every one of our offices, we’re going to have newsletters on common mental health issues and we’ll promote links to articles and helpful sites on mental health. We will also give employees the details of mental health charities that they can turn to if they need help.

Diet: Our efforts to help with employee mental health also extend to their diets. We’re going to have fresh fruit in the offices for our employees to snack on while they work. Your diet has a significant impact on your mental health, and eating fresh fruit is a good way of improving it. Fruit sugars provide slow-release energy that can sustain you for longer, as well as improving your mood. The nutrients found in fruit also offer benefits, with thiamine lifting your mood and zinc and folate alleviating symptoms of depression.

Management: Our managers will also be taking part in mental health awareness training sessions to help them approach mental health issues in an understanding and nuanced way. How your managers treat employees can have an enormous impact on their mental health – one study found that 69% of employees said that managers were their number one source of workplace stress. How management talks about mental health (or whether it does at all) sets the tone for how issues are treated. Your management team should encourage employees to come to them if they have problems of any kind, including mental health. More mental health awareness at all levels of an organisation will help to erode the stigma surrounding it.

Quizzes and questionnaires: We’ll also allow our staff to fill out a questionnaire so they can let us know how well we are dealing with mental health issues in the office and if they have any concerns. We’ll then end the week with a mental health awareness pub quiz because everyone likes pub quizzes.

The importance of mental health awareness

Due to the amount of time we spend at work, it is essential that our mental health is taken care of while we’re there. It has been calculated that during a life lived to the age of 76, the person will spend over 21% of their waking hours at work. We want all workers to be as stress-free and happy as possible in their jobs.

Mental health issues at work still carry a lot of stigmas. Employees worry that their bosses or colleagues will treat them differently if they talk about their mental health issues, or even that they won’t be taken seriously. Raising awareness of mental health issues is one way that we can help reduce the stigma attached to it and help those who suffer from it at work.

It has been reported that one in six UK workers suffer depression, anxiety or stress at work. If you have 60 employees, ten of them could be struggling with mental health issues. But, workers at all levels still have trouble talking about it. HR managers have had to double as mental health counsellors, which they are not always qualified for or comfortable doing. Better awareness of mental health issues in the workplace will lead to better working conditions for employees at every level.

It is essential that your company fosters an atmosphere of mental health understanding and acceptance, to ensure that employees feel able to talk about and get help for their mental health issues.

Getting the word out

Healthy Minds Week is all about helping our employees learn more about the common issues surrounding mental health at work. It is also about spreading awareness to other companies, to encourage more workplaces to accept and help with mental health issues. The more it is talked about in the open, the less stigmatised it will be and the better things will be for all workers.