Why Victor is making moves for Mental Health Awareness Week

Words by Issy Dickinson, Victor HR Executive

Across the UK, an average of 33 million days are lost each year to minor illness, whilst 18 million days are lost to mental health conditions. Alongside this, research by the CIPD showcases that 2023 held the highest rate of sickness related absence for over a decade – with minor illness and mental ill health coming up at the top causes for short-term absence. The mental health crisis is a global epidemic, one that should not be overlooked or taken lightly by employers.

These statistics underscore the widespread nature of mental health challenges and their implications for the workplace. Mental health issues can have profound effects on employees’ well-being, productivity, and overall job performance. For example, individuals experiencing mental health difficulties may struggle with concentration, decision-making, and interpersonal interactions, leading to reduced productivity and increased absenteeism.

In addition to its impact on individual employees, mental health also carries significant organisational costs. Absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover rates are among the key challenges faced by organisations due to mental health issues. Furthermore, stigma surrounding mental health problems can affect workplace dynamics, leading to negative beliefs, stereotypes, and altered social interactions among employees.

It is clear to see the significant impact of mental health challenges for both the employer and employee – with the private aviation industry being notoriously fast-paced, there is an added requirement to ensure effective mental health management.

So how can individuals keep on top of their mental health? According to the Mental Health Foundation, this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness week is movement. With the tagline, “Moving more for our mental health”. Here at Victor, we have decided to kick off the week with some fun competition – the individual who “moves the most” and completes the highest number of steps across the working week, will receive a prize in our Friday afternoon wrap-up.

Movement and exercise can play a crucial role in maintaining and improving your mental well being, some studies have even proven that exercise is as effective as antidepressants in treating mid-moderate depression. This was further highlighted in a recent study by Harvard T.H Public Health, which showed that running for 15 minutes or walking for an hour per day contributes to reducing the risk of major depression by 26%.

There are many reasons why exercise is a powerful way of mitigating mental health issues, with the most common reason being that it allows the release of endorphins (aka the happy hormone!). Further benefits to exercising for mental health include reduced stress levels, improved sleep, higher levels of self-esteem and an increase in energy levels.

As the HR Executive for Victor, part of my role is to contribute to organisational mental health awareness and play my part in supporting our amazing team globally.  This week, Victor employees are taking part in a range of fitness competitions, activities, and important mental health first aid sessions.

As the HR Executive for Victor, part of my role is to contribute to organisational mental health awareness and play my part in supporting our amazing team globally.  This week, Victor employees are taking part in a range of fitness competitions, activities, and important mental health first aid sessions.

We’re also highlighting Victor+, our in-house employee well-being programme. Victor+ provides a variety of workshops, social events, and fitness challenges, and regularly gathers employee feedback to assess and adapt its offerings as needed.

As part of the Victor+ programme, we are offering lunchtime walks and office treats. We will also host the “Wear it green day” which is also open to all our remote employees – Green is the colour of mental health awareness week and for every person wearing green Victor will donate to MIND charity.

I am also taking this opportunity to deliver an introductory session on Mental health first aid, which will be available to our teams globally. As a trained Cognitive behavioural therapist and a background career in psychology, I am fortunate to be able to share these important discussions with the teams.

Below are some of my top tips for implementing a robust mental health awareness programme. Whilst the execution of these actions should always be considered in the wider context of your unique organisational needs, here are some things that we find are helping to get the ball rolling.

Training and Education: Provide employees with training and education on mental health topics, including recognising signs and symptoms, managing stress, and accessing support services. Offer workshops, seminars, and online resources to enhance awareness and knowledge among employees.

Creating Supportive Policies: Develop policies and procedures that support mental health in the workplace, such as flexible work arrangements, employee assistance programs (EAPs), and mental health days.

Creating a Culture of Openness: Encourage open and honest communication about mental health issues at all levels of the organisation. Provide opportunities for employees to share their experiences, seek support, and access resources without fear of judgment or reprisal.

Providing Access to Resources: Ensure that employees have access to a range of mental health resources and support services, including counselling, therapy, and peer support groups. Collaborate with external partners and mental health professionals to offer comprehensive support to employees.

Promoting Work-Life Balance: Encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance by setting realistic expectations, promoting flexible work arrangements, and encouraging regular breaks and time off. Recognise the importance of self-care and well-being in achieving optimal performance and productivity.

As we embark on the start of Mental Health Awareness Month, it is imperative that employers worldwide take a step back and assess; is the sustainability of our employees lying at the foundation of our corporate strategy? Are we pathing the way for our employees to strive?

Whilst we recognise that we cannot solve all of life’s challenges, Victor acknowledges the significant role and impact it has as an employer. In a world where the boundaries between personal and professional lives are increasingly blurred, we are committed to facing the realities that our team members encounter each day, without shying away from the pivotal role that we play in each of their lives.

References:

Dimoff, J. K., & Kelloway, E. K. (2018). Mental health awareness in the workplace: The case for a comprehensive approach. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 109(2), 252-254.

Dimoff, J. K., et al. (2014). The costs of mental health in the workplace: Do we have the information we need? In D. I. Lero et al. (Eds.), Workplace mental health: Building a psychologically safe workplace (pp. 29-43). Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Dimoff, J. K., et al. (2021). The costs of mental health in the workplace: Do we have the information we need? In D. I. Lero et al. (Eds.), Workplace mental health: Building a psychologically safe workplace (pp. 29-43). Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Greer, T.L. et al. (2016) ‘Improvements in psychosocial functioning and health-related quality of life following exercise augmentation in patients with treatment response but nonremitted major depressive disorder: Results from the Tread Study’, Depression and Anxiety, 33(9), pp. 870–881. doi:10.1002/da.22521.

LaMontagne, A. D., et al. (2014). Workplace mental health: Developing an integrated intervention approach. BMC Psychiatry, 14(1), 1-9.

Liversedge, B. (2024) 18 million work days lost each year to poor mental health, British Safety Council. Available at: https://www.britsafe.org/safety-management/2024/18-million-work-days-lost-each-year-to-poor-mental-health#:~:text=An%20average%20of%2033%20million,to%20arrive%20at%20the%20results. (Accessed: 14 May 2024).

Mental Health Foundation. (2021). Mental health statistics: Children and young people. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-children-and-young-people

Moll, S., et al. (2018). Promoting mental health in organizations: An integrative review. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 23(2), 131-143.

New evidence that physical activity can lower depression risk (2019) News. Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/physical-activity-depression-risk/ (Accessed: 14 May 2024).

World Health Organization (WHO). (2017). Depression and Other Common Mental Disorders: Global Health Estimates. WHO.