“Mental health is the same as physical health – it exists on a spectrum, which we move up and down from good to poor for any number of reasons.”
This was one of the opening statements from Emma Mamo of mental health charity Mind, who came to talk to Sightsavers staff in November 2017 about how to create and support a mentally healthy workplace. The talk was arranged by Sightsavers’ Social Inclusion Working Group, as part of its programme of lunchtime speakers to enable staff to gain wider insights into disability and inclusion.
Emma explained how mental health is a hidden topic: people don’t want to talk about it to admit that they are struggling, yet “one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year. The World Health Organisation has predicted that depression will be the second most common cause of ill health worldwide by 2020.”
According to Emma, one in six workers is experiencing anxiety, depression or stress, with people reporting that work is the single most stressful factor in their lives. But she also said 40 per cent of employers believe that staff with a mental health problem are a risk, especially if they are in public-facing roles.
One problem with mental health is that it is not discussed. Right from school age, we are taught about physical health but not mental health. The result, Emma explained, is a “silence around the issues, and a real gap about what we can do to stay well and how to find support when we’re struggling”. She added that the silence feeds the stigma around mental health because people are afraid to talk about it in case they say the wrong thing.