Learning at Work Week 2022

Mental Health – Why is awareness key to unlocking a conversation.

‘The first step toward change is awareness’…

Nathaniel Branden..

This week marks ‘Learning At Work Week’, it takes place between 16th and 22nd May 2022. A focus that places a primary goal, to fit in with individual business goals, and individual employee needs, whilst adding value to employee’s understanding.  With a diverse work force, and mental health taking a rise since the pandemic, and 1 in 6 people report having experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week. Is the focus to learning and understanding each other’s mental health the key to strengthen relationships, communication and business growth. 

The ‘Learning At Work Week’ has been co-ordinated by the Campaign for Learning since 1999. With a focus of Learning Uncovered. With a primary focus of three strands: 

*Uncover learning potential

*Uncover hidden powers and,

*Uncover new dimensions.

Let’s Talk Talent, a London based HR consultancy have built a range or resources this week to help support the HR community, with a focus on ‘What are the skills required for Future HR Superheroes’. We are all heroes in some way, and it takes an amazing human to be a Mental Health First Aider. 

Human resources, as well as managers are at the forefront of responding to sickness and absenteeism within the workplace. Food for thought, How all-encompassing is your mental health strategy? Whilst some organisations may take pride on having an inclusive health and safety initiative, sometimes the ‘real-life’ specifics may well be lost in complicated processes. 

It’s good to have a defined approach to dealing with mental health concerns in our strategies, however putting it into practice could be a completely different approach.

Mental Health, for some, is a very sensitive topic, and may well impact on the nerves of HR Team’s, CEO’s, Mangers and all staff alike. So, how much responsibility do all staff really have on mental health. If you saw a trailing wire, you would move it right. Yes, you probably would, because we are educated about the Health and Safety at work in line with the Health and Safety Act 1974. It’s a cause of action to prevent an accident, due care and attention in the workplace, right.  Further, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it’s the employer’s responsibility to take ‘every reasonable precaution’. Surely addressing mental health, psychological safety is the same as physical health.

We can spend so much of our time assuming, thinking, second guessing, or seeing someone else’s perception as wrong, or they should do this or do this or that. We need greater education around the impacts our thoughts have on how to support others. Applying our perspective on those struggling with anxiety, panic or depression can be and is dangerous.  

The point that I’m alluding to is that, without awareness, we have no information in our tool kit to support, guide or be there to provide early intervention to someone showing warning sings, or even an undiagnosed mental health conditions. Whilst we are not counsellors as Mental Health First Aiders we are there to help raise awareness, and to respond to support people in their journey, be that short term or long term.

It’s important to remember CEO’s, HR, Team Leaders and Mangers are humans (employees) and not seen as a buffer. Improving our awareness by learning can prevent mental distress and harm, intimately simple training can be a game changer to help mitigate the cost of disability and claims costs and moreover can lean to higher output and productivity and efficiencies.

It is essential to maintain an open mind when dealing with mental health concerns – no one expects you to be a counsellor. Rather, to listen and be supportive. Yet so many Managers, HR Leads and staff ask me, Kerry… ‘how do I respond’?  ‘What do I say’?  … The training provides empowering skills, it shines a light on the superhero’s within our workplaces, that are willing and able to guide a colleague. However, by not providing training skills, it puts everyone at risk. Effective organisations understand not only technical requirements, and data output, but more importantly the bottom line that education of mental health and areas of wellbeing like menopause is crucial. 

Workplaces that are not prioritising mental health and wellbeing training are not providing everyone with the opportunity to thrive.  Lack of awareness also increases the chance of mental health conditions going unnoticed. We all need basic awareness to provide us with the tools to efficiently work together towards a psychologically safe environment. After all, our physical health is never in question in the workplace, so let’s get them both on par…  

Kerry B Tonks…



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