Mental Health Awareness Week happens every year in May – this year it takes place between 15 and 21 May and is focusing on the topic of anxiety. Working in a busy care setting can be a high pressure and stressful job. Challenging situations can change and escalate very rapidly, there is a lot of physically tiring work to do and workloads can be big. However, the difference that care work makes to others is readily seen and there are emotional rewards that are not available in other types of work.
According to mental health charity Mind, one in six workers are dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress. It stands to reason that when people are experiencing these kinds of challenges, they are unable to perform at their best. So, anything that can be done in the workplace to support them will benefit both the person and the organisation they work for. Placing a focus on people’s mental health in this way can also help care home managers and staff identify and support residents and patients who are also struggling with similar issues.
Create the right culture
Sometimes, people can feel scared or reluctant to tell their employers about any mental health issues they may be facing. This is difficult, as it can mean they feel unsupported and managers may not realise that they need extra assistance in certain areas to do their work. Make it clear to your staff that they can be open about mental health worries if they feel the need to, and that support and understanding will be forthcoming. Create a clear mental health policy for the organisation and share it with all your teams. Ensure that people know that you are available to talk through anything that is worrying them.
Keep communications open
It’s all very well for you as a manager to tell your people that you are available for them to come to when they need to, but make sure that you really can deliver on your promise and make it easy for them to do so. You could have an open-door policy, or publish a list of dates and times that you are free to help. Use the staff rota planning function on your care management software to work out when you and others will be at work together to decide when and how to facilitate communications. In addition, take advantage of email, text and other digital forms of communication to provide channels of support for those going through mental health difficulties.
Effective listening and active response
Often, people wanting to discuss their mental health concerns benefit from the chance to have someone listen to them and understand their point of view. It is very important to listen and let the person speak without offering judgement, making assumptions or trying to ‘fix’ the problem without accounting for their feelings or preferred approach. Try to remain as flexible as you can when formulating a response. Again, care management software can help you plan what to do around rescheduling shifts, reducing or changing working hours and putting active help in place around counselling and other professional support.
Managing sickness and time off
Sometimes, an employee will need to take sick leave from their job to help them look after their mental health and give them time to recover and regain strength. This is another aspect of protecting people’s mental health at work that can be administered through care management software and its various integrated HR tools. Always take a person-centred approach if someone needs time off work and remain sensitive to the individual’s needs. Keep in touch during their absence, but try not to put any undue pressure on the person, such as trying to confirm a return date too quickly. Use the staff rota planning tool and shift management functions on the care management software to make sure that you can cover their workload while they are away.
Finally, consider going on Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, or appointing someone in your organisation to do so on your behalf. This training equips people with the tools and knowledge they need to support colleagues in the workplace who may be struggling with their mental health. In care settings, the lessons they learn on this valuable training could also be used to enhance the mental health support provided to residents and patients, making it even more worthwhile.