You may have noticed recently that there are more and more articles in the press about mental health and about it growing as a health issue across society.
However, even with the growing information about the things you can do to manage your mental health and help support others with theirs, it can still be easy not to notice when those around us could be struggling.
The statistics tell us that one in four people will struggle with a mental health problem each year.
As chair of the National Grid Wellbeing Steering Group since December 2016, I have watched us grow and learn in how we approach mental health. We have made great progress to tackle the stigma that surrounds both having a mental health issue at work and how we talk to each other about mental health.
The Wellbeing and Health team also continues to support our people to build skills and be a better-equipped workforce to have conversations about wellbeing and mental health.
Everyone has mental health, just like we all have physical health, and no one should have to struggle in silence or feel they don’t know how to get support.
Thursday 7 February is Time to Talk day and, as always, we will be supporting this important national campaign. It is about reminding everyone that a conversation is a great tool to show support for each other and can be the first step to support someone who needs help with a mental health issue.
Our campaign theme is to remind everyone about the importance and value of simple questions like ‘Are you ok?’. We all lead busy lives and it’s so easy to ask this question without thinking about whether someone really is.
Our statistics from the 2018 Business in the Community Mental Health at Work survey, released last October, highlight the pressures that employees and managers are under; with still less than 50% of employees feeling comfortable with talking to their manager about a mental health problem. Although more positively, the survey also showed that our employees feel that managers care about wellbeing.
Of course, a mental health issue isn’t always down to work stresses alone. No one is immune from the demands of modern living and juggling the challenges of work and home life, myself included.
I strongly believe in the importance of reflecting on when those demands are becoming too much. If you can, take time and space to re-energise. Most importantly, make sure you listen to the answer when you ask someone ‘Are you ok?’.
Sometimes we don’t spot the toll that demands are taking – often it’s our family, friends, work colleagues or managers that do. Managers can be in a well-placed position to spot those early warning signs and regular one-to-ones about performance are a perfect opportunity to ask the question ‘Are you ok?’ and mean it.
Asking the question doesn’t mean you have to be a mental health expert, solve or diagnose the issue. It doesn’t need to be extra work, time-consuming or difficult. You can help sometimes simply by letting your team or colleague know that you are interested in them and direct someone to information and resources.
The Wellbeing and Health team has a wealth of resources to support, including the ‘How to talk to team members about mental wellbeing guide’, which is available in hard and electronic copy.
Don’t forget, we also have our free support services – such as the confidential Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) helpline, accessed by calling 0845 094 8107 (option 2) – available to all National Grid employees and managers.
So, I’m asking you to please take Time to Talk and ask your team ‘Are you ok?’