June 22, 2024

South West News

South West News from Gloucestershire to Cornwall

Stress Awareness Month 2024: The Dangerous Link Between Stress & Mental Health Issues

The stress epidemic is rampant in the UK and data shows rates have dramatically gone up in recent years.

At least 63% of UK individuals are stressed weekly, making stress an almost permanent feature in many peoples’ lives.

All through April, Stress Awareness Month is raising awareness of this fast-growing crisis, helping people better understand stress, and helping them cope.

Modern day stressors are hugely to blame, particularly financial worries, as well as almost ‘inevitable’ sources of stress such as family and health issues.

However, the most common factor by far is work, with 79% of people frequently experiencing work-related stress, and one in five having taken time off due to stress in the last year.

Tim Ladd, leading mental health expert and managing director of Red Umbrella, an organisation providing a unique Mental Health First Aid training and counselling offering for businesses, warns about the repercussions of this crisis.

He said: “Stress has unfortunately become an almost inherent part of work for many. However, this notion should be challenged instead of blindly accepted as a by-product of modern-day life.

“Why is it that so many individuals are struggling with stress at work?

“The reasons why people experience stress at work are varied. They may be wrestling with a high workload, unhealthy working patterns or conditions, lack of support, conflict and more.

“The problem is, all of these issues, whether alone or combined, are not just sources of stress – they eventually lead to other more serious problems.

“Stress affects both the body and the mind, increasing the risk of physical illnesses such as heart disease, digestive and skin conditions, and leading to burnout, low mood and mental health issues”.

Recent data shows a strong link between stress and mental disorders such as anxiety, with 51% of adults who are stressed feeling depressed, and 61% feeling anxious.

Tim said: “It is clear that often, issues employees experience at work are not being properly addressed or managed by employers. Many feel they can’t speak up about the problems they are facing in their workplace, which naturally exacerbates existing stress.

“Of course, it’s not solely up to the employee. One needs to consider the culture of the workplace, and whether it is open and supportive enough to allow for these kinds of conversations to take place.

“And crucially – do workplaces have the right resources in place to actually help employees whose mental health has deteriorated due to stress?

“If businesses are to do better, they should start by fostering a culture that encourages openness, awareness, and solidarity.

“Some of the main reasons why employees are not using available Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) is because they don’t know what they entail, may feel intimidated or may not be aware they are available in the first place.

“There’s often a lot of stigma tied to the notion of seeking help for mental health-related issues, and this way of thinking is particularly harmful in this day and age.

“We should all be made to feel like our mental health struggles are just as valid, real, and tangible as physical health problems, especially in the workplace.

“Employers should openly promote the available mental health resources to staff and explain relevant processes accordingly to encourage usage.

“But even when these programmes are suitably promoted, it’s not enough to just offer them. We can’t expect the same off-the-shelf EAPs to work for everyone, across all industries.

“Business leaders’ approach needs to be bespoke to the needs of their workforce. They should be proactive in the implementation of support systems, but also reactive to the needs of the employees, being ready to adapt resources in response to feedback.

“An extremely effective resource gaining increasing prominence today is Mental Health First Aid training.

“It is effectively the equivalent of a physical first aid training programme but for mental health, again highlighting the importance of treating both in the same manner in the workplace.

“Mental Health First Aid training empowers trainees to identify early signs of mental health issues, and ensure individuals are guided towards the appropriate resources or professional help.

“Offering this resource complements a workplace culture that prioritises mental wellbeing, showcasing this vital commitment to both existing employees and potential new hires, and therefore contributing to reducing stigma”.