image image 10th May 2021

Mental Health Awareness Week

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week! At The Data Shed we know everyone has their own way of approaching things and everyone has their own way of staying healthy – mentally and physically. Your wellbeing is really important and a big part of that is looking after your mental health. We have one brain and one body so finding a balance that supports your working day but also compliments your lifestyle is crucial.

Over the last few years, we’ve created space for discussions around mental ill health, helped line managers access resources to better support their team, and committed to empowering our Shedders to understand their mental health and set their own boundaries. We thought we would share some of the best advice that’s been circulated at The Shed to help anyone who may not know where to start. 

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is nature, which The Data Shed team are embracing as we take part in the Tour De Walkshire and raising money for Yorkshire Cancer Research while we’re at it!

 

Mental health first aiders are a must for any organisation

For every ten Shedders, we have one Mental Health First Aider. Our MHFAs are available to the team throughout the working day to be a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and a friend who can pick you up and give you advice when you need it the most. This has been a well-received resource and whilst not everyone will need or want to talk to someone during their time with The Shed, just knowing the support is available can really put people’s mind at ease. There are many organisations providing MHFA courses, MHFA England and Leeds Mind are just a few examples.

 

Join an EAP program

We know that it’s sometimes hard to reach out to people you know and that mental health issues do not work the same hours as us. That’s why every member of The Shed has access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through Health Assured which offers an online portal and 24-hour access to phone support. They’re available 365 days of the year and are free for you to contact! Personally, we think this should be a bare minimum that companies are providing. Your team really is your biggest asset and it’s important people feel they are valued and cared for beyond their working hours.

 

Treat mental ill health like a diet

It’s so easy to expect a lot from our brains; they are incredible after all1 But rewiring the way we think and the way we view our experiences takes time and practice. Just like if you’re wanting to lose weight, set realistic and healthy goals and celebrate the small wins if you are gaining help for a mental illness. You might not look and feel like a new person straight away but know that there is goodness happening on the inside and if you’re consistent, you’ll start to see long term changes and a new lifestyle that fits your new mindset. This logic applies both ways, and it’s important always to keep an eye out for even the smallest changes in your colleagues’ behaviour, as mental health is something that can change slowly over a long period of time.

 

Taking regular breaks

You should be having regular breaks throughout the day, and for anyone working six or more hours a day, by law you must take at least a 20-minute uninterrupted break. As we’re primarily working on laptops and computers in our home offices, it’s a good idea to schedule regular breaks between meetings, aiming to get away from your desk and screen for 5 minutes every hour – and make sure this doesn’t just mean switching to scrolling through your phone screen! If you’re in a meeting longer than an hour, ensure you include a comfort break in the agenda and account for this additional time when booking it in. If you’re struggling to remember to take breaks and have a stretch, you can use one of the following apps:

 

Some important things for Line managers to think about

As a line manager, you’ll have a variety of responsibilities and you’ll also be expected to support your team in any reasonable way you can. Poor mental health is often referred to as an ‘invisible illness’ and you may not realise someone in your team is struggling – something made even harder since we shifted to remote working. They are under no obligation to disclose any kind of mental health to you or the employer, however you might find that they are confident in sharing something with you.

You’ll need to create a plan to support each person. Everyone’s needs are different, so this should be done in tandem with the individual. Signposting resources which help to spot signs of poor mental health, offering assistance at work and extending that support if they need to take some leave, and helping them return to work when they are ready are all important aspects of this. 

Mental Health at Work is a great place to start, as well as ACAS and Unilever which also provide step by step guides and templates for yourself and your team members.

It’s also vitally important that, as someone supporting another person through a difficult time, you make sure that you are aware of your own boundaries, and that you are also being supported. If you are feeling out of your depth with someone’s problems you need to be able to flag this up – for your own wellbeing as well as the other person’s.

 

Some final tips from our Shedders

  1. Try to have your desk facing out of a window so you aren’t staring at a wall all day.
  2. ‘Walkie Talkies’ – if a meeting doesn’t need to be on Zoom/Teams then pick up the phone, put on your shoes and go for a wander whilst making a voice call. Nature is so good for our bodies and mind. The chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, Mark Rowland, stresses that “nature is so central to our psychological and emotional health, it’s almost impossible to realise good mental health for all without a greater connection to the natural world.”
  3. Read a book or paper on an evening to give your eyes a break from screens, and make sure you are wearing sunscreen even indoors, as your laptop gives off UV rays and your skin could be suffering.
  4. Giving back to the community or volunteering your time to a charity can help bring value to your week. Even when you aren’t feeling 100%, knowing that your actions are helping others gives you a place in the world and grounds spiralling thoughts.


Some of our favourite resources we thought we’d share:

Training:

Podcasts:

Apps:

Books:

  • Mythos
  • The Midnight Library
  • Normal People

We Love Data

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