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    Mental Health First Aid - What is Mental Health?

Mental Health First Aid - What is Mental Health?

Mental Health is a state of being in any given moment, whereby we are habitually thinking and feeling in our everchanging environment. Our thoughts, either verbal or that self-talk in our heads, is how we interpret ourselves as individuals and others, and this in turn, reflects on how we behave and interact with our world. Our thoughts, are our beliefs in response to our personal values, upbringing and information gained from our social world. It is our coping mechanism to allow us to work effectively in our careers, building relationships with friends and family, dealing with stressful situations and contributing to our society.

The World Health Organisation defines health as:

‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’, (Adult MHFA Manual 2016, p32) (1).

How it affects us

A new study by Psychologists in Queen’s University in Canada, led by Dr J Poppenk and J Tseng studying fMRI brain scans, has suggested we have about 6,200 thoughts per day (2). All our thoughts are mental states such as: maintaining information, learning, communicating to others and daydreaming. As we experience new situations for example: take on a new role within the workplace, start a family, support a family member, accessing social media, trauma and bereavement, these can have an altering effect on our well-being. In some of these emotional states we feel happy, loved, creative and appreciated. Others can make us feel angry, frustrated and let down and these may affect our sleep patterns, overeating or undereating, mood swings, feeling guilty, loss of confidence, poor self-esteem.

What is Mental Ill Health?

A mental ill health is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, emotion and behaviour, whereby they may feel overwhelmed and unable to cope effectively or engage in daily activities. Some people may only ever experience one episode of mental health in their lifetime, while others may have many episodes with positive times of wellness in-between.

Mental ill health is a broad term used to describe the range of mental illnesses. There are different types; stress, anxiety and depression are more common, whereby bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are not so common. In these ranges given, there are many different scopes in how these affect individuals and impact their wellbeing from mild to severe cases. We must also consider that age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, religion, physical health and sexuality will influence a person’s mental health, where circumstances differ from person to person.

Some individuals may experience a mental ill health, whereby they are aware of their emotions and thought processes and learn to adapt new ways to cope or their difficulties are resolved. Other individuals may need professional help and treatment; for example, a person who has anxiety disorder may develop depression and overtime may go on to misuse alcohol or other drugs to self-medicate, while in others this may lead to suicidal thoughts. We as a team, shall discuss these topics in more detail over the coming months and look at ways in how we can promote a positive well-being, becoming more mindful and build a mentally healthy working community.

Please refer to the statistics below from the Adult MHFA Manual 2016 Statistics (3):

• Mental Health issues are responsible for 91 million working days lost in the UK. Presenteeism which means turning up for work when unwell, is around £15.1 billion a year to the economy.

• At any given time 1 in 6 working age adults have symptoms associated with mental ill health (sleep problems, fatigue etc) which do not meet the criteria for diagnosis.

• 24% of women and 13% of men in England are diagnosed with depression in their lifetime.

• 792 million people are affected by mental health issues worldwide.

• Mental illness is the second-largest source of burden of disease in England. Mental illnesses are more common, long-lasting and impactful than other health conditions.

• Poor mental health impacts on individuals and their families, in lost income, lower education attainment, quality of life and a much shorter life span.

Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace

Life throws many things at us suddenly due to an event or it may build up gradually over time, having an adverse effect on how an individual feels and behaves. At work, you may find it hard to concentrate or focus and tasks may take much longer. You may become undecisive, or make risky decisions. You may find it hard to interact with people at work, or you may have difficulty keeping to set working times. Absenteeism or presenteeism also play a part.

Many individuals choose not to seek professional help due to the stigma or discrimination and some may or may not want to talk to family members or work colleagues and Managers. As an organisation, we realise the importance for all its members to have in place a dedicated team of Mental Health First Aiders, who care and can listen without being judgemental; helping you deal with times when you feel troubled. Whilst we are unable to provide professional help, we are able to guide you to the many resources available within the UK, including local support or online peer support groups. Please note, that you have the choice to remain anonymous. We are here to provide continued support to promote positive well-being for all employees. If you have any concerns that you are facing, no matter what they may be, please be reassured that we are here to offer help and support to you.

By Elaine Quick
Mental Health First Aider
Tel: 01934 417576