Taking action for World Mental Health Day

Today, 10 October, marks a day of mental wellbeing awareness raising, with the World Federation for Mental Health selecting this year’s theme as suicide prevention.

Image of man at desk meditating
The overall message for the day is one of hope, says chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation in the UK, Mark Rowland.Writing on the organisation’s blog, Mr Rowland said the theme of suicide prevention is important for bringing the issue into the public consciousness. "As we bring suicide out from the shadows and seek to understand the causes, we need an urgent and sustained approach to prevent it.  "The good news is that every step we take towards preventing suicide is also a step towards a mentally healthier society. We will all benefit if we create a society where we can ask for help, experience less trauma and distress and where support is on hand when we need it."

How can employers support mental wellbeing?

Statistics show the number of people taking their own lives increased in 2018. One in four of us also experience mental ill health at some time.While the reasons for suicide are individual and complex, mental wellbeing can be of particular pertinence to the global mobility community given the significant life-event of a relocation, or settling in a new country and job.Sarah Dennis, Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection, agrees that companies can play an important role. Speaking to mark World Suicide Prevention Day 2019, which took place on 10 September, she said: “It’s essential that businesses identify good practice around workplace policies on mental health.  “Being aware of the potential challenging times for staff positioned internationally is the first step, and it’s crucial that support is offered throughout the duration of assignments."The provision of a Global EAP [employee assistance programme], which provides access to specialists that have worked in a foreign country and understand the problems first-hand, can be a great support for those overseas.”

‘Always on’ and the impact on wellbeing

Jonathan Richards, CEO and founder at Breathe, an HR software company, also believes managing technology better can have a positive impact on wellbeing.“The ubiquity of technology has created an always there, always on culture. People are finding it increasingly hard to ‘switch off’ and relax as they are pressured to work late and check emails outside of working hours.“Presenteeism in the modern workplace can be toxic and counterproductive, draining people rather than allowing them to succeed. “Supporting mental health issues is a complex issue and not something which is always easy to get right. Although not perfect, for us, offering paid benefits, prompting management teams to talk about mental ill-health and encouraging employees to get outside during lunch breaks has cultivated an environment where wellness is actively championed.“It's easy for businesses to say they are supporting mental health with a nice social post or blog on World Mental Health Day, it's another thing to actually try and do something about it.”

What can we do if someone comes to us with suicidal thoughts?

Everyone can make a difference to others who have reached the point of wanting to end their lives, says the Mental Health Foundation. Its WAIT suicide prevention model is a first step in learning about suicide prevention and how we can all offer hope to people who may be in crisis.Watch out for signs of distress and changes in behaviourAsk "are you having suicidal thoughts?"It will pass; assure your loved one that, with help, their suicidal feelings will pass with timeTalk to others; encourage your loved one to seek help from a GP or professional.

For more information, visit our dedicated Health and Wellness section.

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