When writing my previous blog for Mental Health Awareness Week, 2021, I was the only mental health first aider (MHFA) at Optio. Now we have six MHFAs; some male, others female and across varying levels of the company so everyone feels they have someone they can approach.
A year ago, companies were contemplating and experimenting with hybrid working, which for many has been and continues to be an upheaval following lengthy periods of enforced home working. A number of staff have noticeably improved since being back in the office and, on the whole, MHFAs have been in less demand since people have returned. That said, for some, being back in the office and using public transport again has proved particularly challenging and we continue to support them in making the transition. Those understandable anxieties are now gradually receding with the last of the government restrictions having been lifted and as people begin to enjoy the benefits of greater working flexibility.
However, just because being closer to others is once again possible, people can be lonely even in a crowd. Loneliness, which is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, affects millions of people in the UK each year and is a key cause of poor mental health.
During this week and beyond we will continue to promote healthier mental wellbeing and demonstrate our commitment to supporting employees with:
- Workshops on loneliness and mental health throughout May
- Encouraging people to wear green to show support
- Desk drop of items to bring a little cheer and remind people they are valued
- Our logos and email signatures will go green for the week to promote awareness
- Daily blogs and quotes from our senior team and MHFAs
These initiatives promise to teach us all something about how we can alleviate loneliness in others and in ourselves. The camaraderie that spurred teams through lockdown brought with it greater concern for our fellow workers, which is possibly the most positive aspect of the pandemic’s legacy. Mental Health Awareness Week is a great opportunity to continue in that vein and to learn how to offer informed support to others, while taking better care of our own mental health.
If you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness and/or having suicidal thoughts, help is available. Use the following support groups and lifelines to get the care you need.
- Seek advice from your GP
- Call NHS choices on 111
- Mind info line: 0300 123 3393
- Crisis Text Line – text shout to 85258
- Side by Side Mind’s supportive online community – join here: https://sidebyside.mind.org.uk/