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Just be good to me

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What do Prince William, Katy Perry, Stephen Fry, Jameela Jamil and Alesha Dixon all have in common?

It is a serious subject affecting an increasing number of people, and you might have guessed the answer already …. mental health issues.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and in recognition of that, the aforementioned group got together on Monday morning to record a mental health broadcast across UK radio stations. It was another encouraging sign that we are focussing more on mental health, and highlighting the importance of talking – and indeed listening – about it. But there is no denying that more still needs to be done.

Depending on who you speak to, up to one in four people are affected by mental health problems. When that statistic was discussed at last year’s Bupa Mindshift event, Alistair Campbell, who is widely known for vocalising his own mental health difficulties, spoke candidly and challenged this statistic. He said that we should recognise this as actually being ‘one in one,’ since everyone has something going on in their life that affects their own mental health. I, for one, considered my own frailties at this point.

Mental health conditions are wide-ranging, and MIND’s A-Z of mental health provides some sense of the scale of the issues that are being faced. As alluded to in this blog’s opening line, it is worth noting that these things are a concern for people both in and out of the workplace, because as is true of other socioeconomic factors, there are no divisions or exceptions when it comes to who can be affected by mental health difficulties.

The focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is body image. Despite improvements in diversity, inclusion and a greater understanding of mental health issues in the workplace, body shaming is still very much an issue in some industries.

Last year the Mental Health Foundation found that 30% of all adults have felt so stressed by their own body image and appearance that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. That’s almost 1 in every 3 people. It may be just one factor, but body image has profound implications for our mental and physical health: statistics show that the more comfortable you are with your body, the better your overall wellbeing is likely to be, and the less likely you are to engage in destructive behaviours.

So as employers and employees, what can be done to help in this area? As with all mental health issues, we can offer emotional support. Listening, staying calm and providing reassurances will all make a real difference. Combine that with being non-judgemental, positive and not making assumptions about someone’s mental health, and we can help struggling colleagues and friends to feel better about themselves. Treating people the way we would want to be treated ourselves is a good starting point. It opens the door to realising that we are all – and therefore all look – different, and shouldn’t be judged for that. Once we can appreciate that we are united in our differences, the self-esteem that may have suffered because of comparing ourselves to others can start to improve.

At Buck we operate a social contract, and a very important part of this is as follows:

“[Employees] want to be treated with respect and feel part of the team, making their contribution to the shared vision, regardless of their role or seniority. They want to work with a team who are colleagues and also friends.”

The whole social contract focuses on wellbeing, doing the right thing and looking after people around you. This is just how we are all encouraged to approach mental health issues, but it is a good reminder that we shouldn’t wait for a particular cause or reason to treat each other well and bolster each other’s mental wellbeing. Now, and every day, is the time to take action to help other people live their best lives.

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