Recent years have seen some improvement in how we address or speak about mental health. Awareness about mental health issues is growing among businesses as it has become clear that mental health at work is especially important not only for the development, potential and wellbeing of an individual but also for the economic growth and prosperity of a company or organization. In fact, addressing wellbeing at work can increase productivity by as much as 12%.
However, according to the Mental Health Foundation, our collective mental health is deteriorating with 65% of people in the UK, saying that they have experienced a mental health problem. Also, a 2017 Unison survey found that 92% of people felt that at some point they had been under too much pressure at work and 67% considered excessive work demands as the source of their stress at work. This is no surprise as recent developments and perceptions of work have changed, blurring the boundaries between the spheres of work and private life.
For instance, smartphones mean that employees have constant access to their work emails and Skype on their personal mobile phones, meaning they are never truly able to switch off.
Additionally, there is a lack of interventions that consider psychosocial risk factors in the workplace in unison with individual factors, such as the perceptions an employee has of his/her work and work-related stress factors.
Depending on the disciple mental health issues may also vary and thus, interventions must be adjusted accordingly. For instance, mental health in academia, research and journalism is increasingly important due to some of the distressing content they come into contact with.
For instance, an important issue which is becoming more prominent among these disciplines is vicarious trauma which may be defined as “exposure to distressing images and videos that can cause similar emotional responses as when someone witnesses trauma first hand in the field.” Sam Dubberley and Michele Gran’s Guide Journalism and Vicarious Trauma: A Guide for Journalists, Editors and News Organisations” is a great example of work being done in this field. The guide writes about the challenges posed by vicarious trauma while also providing practical tips and guidance for organisations.
At Trilateral Research we take the health and protection of our researchers very seriously, particularly when dealing with sensitive research topics that we are directly engaged with such as Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation.
As well as projects such as DANTE (detecting and analysing terrorist-related online content and financing activities) in which we had to analyse sensitive and potentially distressing content. Through these experiences, Trilateral has understood the need to implement measures to ensure their staff’s wellbeing, this concern has transitioned directly into our research and ethics work, and in our willingness to undertake projects and proposals in this domain.
Moving forward, we have identified some key points employers must focus on, in order to protect employees from stress, anxiety and depression:
- Preventive care measures on an individual as well as organisational level. This includes the identification of early signs of distress amongst employees.
- Supporting a healthy work/life balance.
- Ensuring that mechanisms are in place for the development of a support network and that employees have access to medical help and advice.
- Other initiatives, such as encouraging open discussions on mental health issues, healthy living initiatives such as cycle to work streams are also important and can go a long way to helping someone who is suffering from mental health issues.
For more info in this research area, contact our team: