Mental Health Awareness Week – This Years’ Focus is on ‘Loneliness’

By Helen Burrowes

Senior HR Consultant

The Mental Health Foundation has recently announced that this years’ Mental Health Awareness Week’ will focus on loneliness.

What is loneliness and how can organisations look out for their employees?

According to the Mental Health Foundation, ‘Loneliness affects millions of people in the UK every year and is a key driver of poor mental health.’  In the last two years, specifically during the pandemic, there was a lack/reduction of human interaction, people felt isolated and unable to cope. Normally, to interact with others, people would socialise at work, and in public places for example: gyms, coffee shops etc, however during the pandemic this was either limited or reduced therefore putting people at a higher risk of poor mental health.

Loneliness can also include situations where people feel that they are managing something on their own; with no network and feeling that they have no support. This may include carers, who are struggling with the day to day of caring for another people – whether that is a child or other family members. Loneliness, may also relate to a medical condition, where the person feels uncomfortable about reaching out for support or talking to others, specifically if they feel that this may have an impact on their employment.

Why it is important to talk!

A ‘Time to Talk’ day was previously set up by the Mental Health at Work Organisation, enabling people to open up and discuss how they are feeling. This allows for more awareness and discussion around the relevant support available.  Organisation’s can adopt this approach to encourage their people to talk in a safe environment, and to identify where the company can provide the necessary support.

Employers have an obligation to look after their employees physical and mental health. Part of this will be communicating what support your business may have in place. For example, your business may offer professional medical support provided by a GP or through an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).

Support within your network of people is also important and can help to alleviate some of the day-to-day pressures.  Organisations offer internal support with various programmes including:

  • Training and upskilling line managers to enable them to spot mental health issues and approach conversations sensitively and appropriately’
  • Coffee with a colleague, allowing time during the working day to catch up
  • Social areas in the workplace for colleagues to come together
  • Team talks, where colleagues can check in with others to see how they are.

With so many networks of support available, reaching out is the most effective way to seek support.

And where the employee requires additional support, organisations can implement these more formal processes to ensure that their employees are receiving professional services:

  • Mental health first aid representatives
  • Menopause support
  • Mental health support
  • Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP)
  • Medical schemes.

If you would like to discuss any of the above support programmes or would like to implement a Mental Health Policy and Programme into your organisation, please contact the Nockolds HR team on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our Team will be in touch.