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Mental Health and Workplace Benefits

Mental Health and Workplace Benefits

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Mental health issues can take all kinds of shapes and forms.  Sometimes the symptoms are purely in the mind, and sometimes the symptoms are physical.  Without experience of a mental health problem, it’s hard to understand the impact and, crucially, the services that are there to help in a time of need.  It also makes you realise that services utilised collectively can have a big impact on the outcome of the condition.

Until recently, I never thought an issue like this could affect me.  I’m good at coping with life’s problems and am generally a strong person – and even if I wasn’t, how would my employer be able to help? Why would I ever use an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?  For legal or financial issues maybe, but certainly not for a mental health problem.  Don’t we have the NHS for counselling when we need it?  Also, mental health problems are the big conditions, aren’t they? The ones that require years of treatment or endless medication, rather than something that can be helped with an employee benefits feature? Well, actually no. I’ll explain.

Late in 2020, I found out first-hand that even the strongest person can be caught unaware, and help is not always easy to come by. Whilst no one benefit is an immediate cure, they all played a part in collective assistance.

The first stop, the EAP. This is by no means a one-stop solution.  However, it did immediately diffuse the situation. Talking to someone who understands your point of view and knows how to provide calming techniques starts to put the problem into perspective. The EAP was also a good source of information as to where to get additional help and support. Amazing really, to think that such a rich service comes at such a low cost.  Yet frustrating to realise that such a small percentage of the population use it.

I – like many others I’m sure – are not huge fans of going to the GP, despite this situation warranting some additional help. The relief, therefore, to be able to speak to a GP using my mobile phone was huge. No more waiting nervously in the reception area pretending to read magazines in which I have no interest, wondering what he or she might say. For a problem where nerves are already working against you, the ability to schedule an appointment in the same day and from your own living room takes a significant weight off the problem.

Finally, as I noted earlier, how does private counselling play a role when the NHS exists? It’s free so why not take advantage of it? The NHS is a wonderful establishment that we should be grateful for, but with its accessibility comes the problem that everyone wants to use it.  And especially if you are caught with a mental health issue – especially right now, when mental health problems have risen – treatment can take a while. For example, my problem has now all but resolved itself but I am still being referred rather than treated by the NHS.  Had the problem been a little more serious, the struggle would have been much harder, and the symptoms potentially worsened.

In summary, mental health affects all of us at some point during our lives. Sometimes it’s mild and sometimes it can really put pressure on you. It’s thanks to some of the benefits available through my employer that I was able to manage and carry on without it being a bigger problem. It’s frightening to think that only a few years ago, admitting to a problem like this would have been almost frowned upon, let alone helped. Mental health may be largely invisible, but its effects are certainly not.

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