Last week, 10th to 16th May 2021, was National Mental Health Awareness Week. It is the 20th anniversary of the event created by the Mental Health Foundation and perhaps one of the most important times to focus on mental health and wellness. The global pandemic has been incredibly challenging and stressful. Whether you have been shielding, volunteering mutual aid, making it through on furlough, feeling isolated at home, or working on the frontline, everyone has faced their own stresses and strains. However, the pandemic has also shown us the incredible strength and generosity people have to offer to one another through mutual aid programmes.
Our focus has been on our frontline security staff who have worked to protect people throughout the pandemic. Security guarding and frontline security have never been easy or stress-free roles to take on. Even before the pandemic hit the UK, research found that thousands of officers around the UK suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and have been often exposed to verbal and physical abuse while at work. This research also found that many officers didn’t receive help. When the pandemic reached the UK, officers were placed on the frontline. With many shops introducing social distancing protocols officers were suddenly in high demand and taking on new tasks. Their work put them at high risk and the UK Office for National Statistics found that male security officers were most at risk of any profession. Officers have been responsible for the health and safety of the nation through the ups and downs of the pandemic and faced incredible pressure in the process.
After such a tough year, the country is pushing through to a brighter future. The roll-out of the vaccine has taken place at incredible speed and we are seeing things slowly return to normal. But as we move forward, we can’t overlook the lasting trauma of such an event. Mental health needs to be taken seriously in the workplace. There are lots of ways that employers can support their employees’ mental health that go beyond the reasonable adjustmentsthat must be considered by every employer.
- Create a supportive environment. One of the biggest challenges in addressing mental health issues is the stigma that surround them. Many people are uncomfortable talking about their mental health or don’t know how to react to someone managing it. Even when someone is uncomfortable talking about their mental health to a group, an individual should be available to talk to. Ideally managers should encourage their employees to be open so they are able to help where possible. It can also help to train individuals in mental health first aid or provide access to independent councillors or helplines. There are a lot of different ways to offer support and everyone will have a different preference so support should be flexible and wide-ranging.
It can also help to share information about mental health, particularly any conditions that are prevalent within your industry. This will normalise the subject and can make it easier for individuals to speak out.
- Offer adjustments such as time off. Employees have been flexible and shown incredible dedication through the pandemic. This is a way for organisations to repay that hard work. Flexible working hours or remote working can be helpful to many. Every organisation should have a protocol which support those that need to take leave due to their mental health.
There are many resources available to organisations, such as ‘How to support staff who are experiencing a mental health problem’ from the charity Mind. It might take some trial and error for an organisation to find what works best for them but investing in mental health support is vital.