Many people underestimate how much work has an impact on our lives. We spend 9am to 5pm (for some anyway!), Monday through Friday working, so ensuring that the workplace is a safe and enjoyable environment is crucial. According to research, one in six workers will experience depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress at any time and additional studies have shown that mental health issues are responsible for 91 million working days lost in the UK.

Earlier this year, some of our staff were trained as mental health first aiders to improve their understanding of different mental health issues, learn about promoting strong mental health and deal with mental health challenges in the workplace. One of the key takeaways from the course was on listening and asking questions. People often underestimate the value of being a good listener. That is purely listening with no judgement, not trying to relate it to your own experiences or asking questions that you don’t need to know the answer to. It sounds simple but it’s easier said than done.

To help someone through a tough time, you don’t need to know the details, you just need enough to help them get through it, such as what helped them last time they felt this way, or what they get enjoyment out of. The other trick is to make sure you’re not thinking about what question you’re going to ask while they’re talking to you! Your brain can’t listen properly if it’s thinking of a question. It’s okay to pause and think before responding. It’s also okay if you don’t know the solution to their problems, in fact no one will really know. You’re there to listen, and that’s already a massive help.

There’s often stigma associated with mental health issues, making people feel like they can’t discuss them, particularly in the workplace. Better understanding of mental health challenges can help people open up and talk about them and any issues they may be facing. Employers need to recognise that mental health is just as important as physical health and implement supportive policies and procedures to promote better mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Training is also important, to ensure that managers better understand mental health issues and ways to maintain strong health and wellbeing at work, building a culture of mutual respect and a sense of community, so that employees can feel supported and recognised.

Another key takeaway from the course was the idea of having a ‘happiness hour’. Those who attended the training course were set homework, to take one hour out of their day to do something that simply made them happy – whether that be watching Netflix, cooking a nice meal or going to a gym class. We’re often all so busy with work and life that we forget to take a break and check in with ourselves. Take an hour every day (yes every day) to do something that makes you happy, whether that’s taking a nice stroll somewhere, reading a book or playing a favourite sport. Looking after your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health, so do try to take that time to do something for yourself, something that makes you happy.

This blog was written by Alexandra Haddon and Frankie Dundon, Ruder Finn Mental Health First Aiders.