IOSH conference: workers must “put hands up” for help on mental health
Communication is key to ensuring workplace mental health issues are addressed, a campaigner and consultant has told the IOSH conference.
Geoff McDonald, said workers should ‘put their hands up and ask for help’ if they are suffering from mental health problems in the workplace.
McDonald, who speaks about his own personal mental health journey during his time at Unilever as a former global VP of HR marketing, communications, sustainability & water, told delegates that line managers needed to ensure they were able to have conversations with staff – and that a culture of trust about discussing mental health issues existed.
Speaking about his experience, McDonald said there were some ‘very dark moments’ and it was through communication and talking openly about the issue that he was able to move forward.
He said: “Why in 2017, when we have put people on the moon, can we still not openly talk about our mental health at work?
“I want everyone in workplaces all over the world to feel that they genuinely have the choice to put their hand up and ask for help if they are suffering from depression, anxiety or bipolar, just as they would if they were suffering from a physical illness.
McDonald also mentioned a friend who had died and said that ‘stigma killed my friend’.
He said: “If he had been suffering from a physical illness he would have put his hand up and asked for help. If my friend had that choice he may still be here today.”
According to McDonald, he said workers ‘energy’ was vital – driven by physical, emotional and mental health – and called it the ‘most limiting resource’ within businesses.
Frazzled at work
He said: “People are frazzled. What have we done to the workplace to sap the energy out of people? Why don’t we have workplaces where we are talking about enhancing the energy of people, not making them resilient and throwing more at them?
“We can have knowledge, skills and behaviours but if we don’t have energy, we cannot perform.”
McDonald claimed that progress in improving workplace safety had been achieved – and it was now the time to do the same for health and wellbeing. He said engaging with business leaders, upskilling workers to spot signs of poor mental health, and ‘shifting the narrative’ were crucial to success.
He said: “If a flower doesn’t bloom, there is nothing wrong with the flower. It is the environment in which it lives.”
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