What if it is more than the January blues?

January 3rd, 2019

Written by Katy Winship

Christmas is over and it’s back to work. The festivities are over and it’s back to reality. I bet you’ll have seen a few long faces by now. Sometimes it feels like a long stretch until the next thing we can excitedabout - just months of cold weather and paying off our credit card bills!

It can be a pretty miserable time, no wonder there’s such a thing as “the January blues”. But for some, the feeling of depression is a constant and the cold weather etc only adds to already low moods.

Many of us suffer from depression. In fact, it’s more than likely that you know many people who struggle. A simple search of “how many” on Google tells you everything you know about what a big deal it is.
The answer to the question is that 300 million people suffer from depression. People of all ages, more women suffer then men and approximately 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem each year. So, if it’s not you or him or her it’s the person sitting beside you.

Recognise the signs

Around 70% of sufferers of depression are not seeking any help, so it’s important that we try to offer support and understanding to others by recognising the signs. Often, it might be hard to detect anything is wrong at all. Some people are experts at painting on a brave face. With others it’s a different story. Excessive drinking, persistent low mood, difficulty concentrating, fatigue and loss of energy, changes in behaviour; for example, excessive shopping sprees, withdrawal from social situations and absenteeism from work are all common signs that someone has a mental health issue.

As a business ACS recognise that this is mental health is as important issue and are committed to the well-being of their employees. However, not everyone is fortunate to have understanding employers, so if you are struggling to get out of bed, engage with others or concentrate because you have a mental health issue it’s important to know what you’re entitled to.

Reasonable adjustments

Just as employers have a duty of care to people with disabilities (i.e. wheelchair access) they also have a responsibility to their employees with long term mental health issues as the Equality Act 2010 classes these issues as a type of disability. Under the act employers must make adjustments to accommodate the needs of their employees but adjustments must be ones that are reasonable for your employer to make.

Each case is different but what is reasonable depends on the circumstances of both the employer and employee:
• If the change deals with the disadvantage
• How practicable it is to make the change
• The employer’s size and financial resources
• Other resources which may be available to make the change

Examples of adjustments that are considered “reasonable” that you might make you feel happier at work are:
• Changes to your working area. For example, if you suffer from social anxiety disorder you might not find hot-desking comfortable and request a permanent desk
• Changes to working practises - it might be that using the phone is not an enjoyable experience so adjusting practices that allow for email communication instead might be an option
• Changes to your working hours – perhaps you suffer from insomnia and would prefer to start work later in the day
• Enabling you to spend time working from home instead of in the office
• Being allowed to take time off work for treatment, assessment or rehabilitation
• Temporarily re-allocating tasks that you find stressful and difficult
• The introduction of a mentoring programme

If you want to ask for help but you aren’t sure how, you will find templates for letters on the mind.org.uk website which you can download and amend to submit to your employer. Click Here

How employers can help

The UK economy loses £99 billion a year due to mental health issues that lead to low productivity and absenteeism. Therefore, it’s important that employers help employees that need it. Apart from anything else they have a duty of care to their staff and it’s against the law to not make reasonable adjustments for someone with long-standing mental health problems (over 12 months) under the Equality Act 2010 when they have requested them.

Here are some suggestions that could be considered “reasonable adjustments” to those that need it:
• Offer flexible working hours and discuss working from home or minimising working hours to part time or even discuss a job share
• Reallocate responsibilities temporarily
• Occupational health referrals will help employers understand what adjustments need to be made to support employees
• Consider creating spaces for employees to go- is there a personal office space they could use or a quitter workstation (we have plenty of options for creating personal spaces- ask your account manager if you need help)
• Provide support with workload, whether it’s help prioritising tasks or allowing them to focus on one task or introducing a mentor
• Check in on your employee- don’t ignore their pleas for help, make sure they know you care
• Create a culture of support, perhaps by trialling a buddy scheme
• Make it less of a taboo to talk about mental health through workshops and talks

There are plenty of online resources which provide help for dealing with mental health problems in the workplace:
Time to change
The Samaritans
The well being project
Heads together

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