Mental health must be a priority

The stigma surrounding mental health thankfully appears to be lessening, though we still have a long way to go. And this week in particular, the subject has dominated news headlines following the passing of 40-year-old UK TV presenter Caroline Flack, not just because she was famous but the perception of what drove her to take her life, and the support around her.

The subject of mental health is not going to go away, and it shouldn’t. If someone has a physical injury or illness, there is an automatic openness to supporting, talking, discussing, yet the invisibility of mental health can bring barriers to understanding.

I wrote an article in June 2018 highlighting that although the O&G industry may finally be moving out of the downturn, the after-effects are far reaching, including to the core of any business – people. Nearly two years on, the subject of mental health continues to be elevated in the media, social platforms, company initiatives as well as community projects, giving understanding and acceptance of this being another part of our health and wellbeing. It certainly should not be an area of stigma, and I am glad to see this improving.

Mental health does not discriminate, and impacts a large number of our population. Both the personal and working lives can be greatly impacted. With 1 in 4 in the UK now said to experience mental health at some point in our lifetime1, this is an illness that affects everyone – whether directly or indirectly. Mental Health Foundation states that 14.7% of the workplace suffer from mental health issues, and 12.7% of all sickness absence days can be attributed to this.

We must continue to take down barriers to help and ultimately improve our wellbeing.

There are many campaigns promoting those suffering with mental health to reach out for help, to talk and be supported. However, this will prove too hard for some; an obstacle too high. But we can all make a positive impact on someone’s life, even by the simple step of looking out for friends, families and peers, being aware of changes in behaviour and moods, and offering support.

But we must not overlook our own wellbeing. Our health needs our focus, care and effort. In a fast-paced world which presents pressures in and outwith work, we need to be proactive to take care of ourselves, manage stress levels, and find a good work/life balance; don’t wait to react when we are already on the route to poor mental health. But when we do see signs of we are perhaps struggling with situations, we need to have the strength to acknowledge, self-reflect and take positive actions to prevent this developing further.

There are super initiatives being introduced by companies to support colleagues, and so far I have heard of:

  • First Aid for Mental Health courses and access to these first aiders
  • Counselling sessions being organised for employees
  • Health self-awareness sessions
  • Private insurances offering access to counselling and psychotherapists
  • Mentoring initiatives
  • Health & wellbeing talks by external professionals

The industry is also promoting mental health through events and initiatives. For instance, Step Change in Safety today records a session on Mental Health & Wellbeing, as well as offering a Mental Health Champion Course on February 27, as well as further dates throughout the year.

Let’s continue to work towards a more inclusive, understanding approach to health & wellbeing; make it a priority with no stigma attached – and be healthier, happier, safer.

Gillian Fowler

Gillian Fowler