Mental health charity urges companies to make wellness a priority in the workplace

Mental Health charity Suicide or Survive (SOS) is urging people to make wellness a priority in the workplace ahead of National Workplace Wellbeing Day on April 12.

The charity is one of the leading mental health charities in Ireland with a range of online and community-based programmes.

They are increasingly active in supporting employers in promoting wellbeing in the workplace.

Founder and CEO of Suicide or Survive (SOS), Caroline McGuigan, said that many people are struggling to cope at work because of personal or professional difficulties.

“Things like family illness, bereavement, financial pressures and relationship problems can make it difficult to cope at work. Mental health has now become the most common cause of workplace absence so it’s a huge issue for both employees and employers," she said.

We are in ongoing discussions with employers seeking to do more when it comes to staff wellbeing. While it’s great to see the momentum for change, we’re also keen to stress that the change required needs to be a culture shift.

She said that "quick-fixes" are not sustainable "when it comes to wellbeing".

"Having once off talks and workshops has a role but we encourage companies to go the distance and really look at wellbeing from a cultural perspective and ensure it becomes rooted into the heart of every aspect of the business.

Companies such as Sky Ireland, Paypal, eBay, Linkedin, Bank of Ireland, Alexion, Momentum, HPRA and the Department of Agriculture, which SOS have been working with on improving workplace wellbeing have found it a "win-win for everyone".

CEO of Suicide or Survive (SOS), Caroline McGuigan.

Research from the UK-based Institute of Directors shows that over 50% of employers have been approached by employees about mental health challenges.

Only 14% of companies have a policy in place to deal with the problem and one in five directors in large companies did not know whether they had a policy at all.

The number of days taken off due to mental health problems has increased significantly year on year according to the UK Office for National Statistics.

It states that anxiety, stress, and depression are now the largest reason for workplace absence which is widely thought to be similar in Ireland.

Ms McGuigan said:

This coming Friday the team in SOS will be delivering workshops and also making sure to look after our own wellness with tips from our wellness jar, talking openly about mental health, and having a bit of an extra laugh as we prepare for the weekend.

"We encourage others to get on board and to join the movement for workplace wellbeing in whatever way they can.”

Caroline McGuigan's tips for workplace wellness

  • 1. Mindfulness: Take five to 10 minutes every day to do a team meditation exercise. It improves wellbeing, focus and productivity. It also takes us out of the busyness of work to give our minds a break, which allows us to face our workload with renewed energy.
  • 2. Wellness jar: We have a jar in my own office into which everyone puts their own wellness tips – simple things like “take a minute to breathe and to notice your surroundings”, “play your favourite piece of music”, “have a chat with a friend” or “get some fresh air at lunchtime”. We each take a tip from the jar every day and commit to putting it into action before the day is over. This is a really simple and effective thing that everyone can take part in.
  • 3. Taking notice: Paying attention to your colleagues and really listening when someone tells you how they are. Take time to notice and complement those around you – kind words can give a lift to those who are struggling.
  • 4. Gratitude: Never underestimate the value of thanking a colleague. We doubt our ability in work from time to time so being made to feel appreciated can have a big impact.
  • 5. Being open about our struggles: Many of us struggle with our mental health every now and then, but the stigma and the pressures of work can force us to put on a mask that only worsens our difficulties.

For more information on Suicide or Survive go to www.suicideorsurvive.ie and check out www.wellbeingday.ie.

If you or someone you know has been affected by mental health issues you can contact:

Samaritans - 116 123, text 087 2609090 or email jo@samaritans.ie

Pieta House (Suicide & Self-harm) - 1800 247 247 or 01 623 5606

Aware (Depression, Bi-Polar Disorder & Anxiety) - 1800 80 48 48

Grow (Mental Health support & Recovery) - 1890 474 474

Bodywhys (Eating Disorders Associations of Ireland) - 1890 200 444

Childline (for under 18s) - 1800 66 66 66

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