The Silent Emergency within Organisations

Last week saw a powerful documentary by Roman Kemp on the BBC (Our Silent Emergency) in which he explored Mental Health and suicide, particularly for young men. He bravely discussed the suicide of his friend as well as his own ongoing battles with Mental Health and thoughts on taking his own life. If you don’t know who Roman Kemp is; he is a radio DJ, tv celebrity and the son of Martin Kemp – so it can be easy to ask ‘what does he have to feel depressed about?’. Sadly, however Roman’s story is not unique. According to the show up to three quarters of men in the UK do not feel they have someone to talk to about mental health issues and the number of men committing suicide continues to rise alongside the age of people reporting suicidal feelings decreasing, with the number of teenagers taking their own lives due to mental health issues on the rise.

No doubt covid and lockdown has contributed to this spike in mental health related issues however these numbers were on the rise before the global pandemic so, although this will have added to the mental health crisis, it is unlikely that much will change once lockdown lifts. There are even some concerns the lifting of lockdown may place extra stress on individuals with poor mental health as we reintegrate into society and the increased anxiety that may come with this.

One of the key risks of this rising mental health ‘emergency’ within society and especially for young men that Roman’s documentary brought to life is the ‘silent’ part. Usually, people with poor mental health will remain silent about how they are suffering, this means on the surface everything can seem to be fine to friends and family but internally they can be really struggling despite outward impressions, as we simply do not know what someone is thinking or how they are feeling inside. Quite often people who are suffering will feel ashamed to speak up about how they are feeling and will mask their poor mental health even putting on a mask for others when in public.

One of the major contributors to a person’s mental health (both positively and negatively) is their working environment. Organisations can help employees by placing a focus on how they support people with their mental health, including creating spaces where it is safe to disclose that they are struggling. This is an important part of creating an inclusive environment which is psychologically safe. As an employer you need to ensure that there is support available; asking your people managers to support their teams in this way requires you to ensure that they are given the right tools and approaches. Equally important is the question are your people managers supported with their own mental wellbeing? As an organisation are you taking time to check in with others (at all levels) and see if they are okay?

Another key point raised in the documentary is that rather than the responsibility being with the individual to proactively bring up their feelings to others, society and employers need to reach out to individuals to simply to check in and see how they are really feeling in an authentic way. As Roman stated in the documentary, asking twice is important to get past the initial ‘I’m fine’ response that so many of us are programmed to give. As simple as it may seem simply checking in with others is a powerful intervention that can make a big difference from brightening up someone’s day to possibly even saving someone’s life. 

Although it seems simple to ask, ‘are you okay?’, it is not easy and can at first be quite uncomfortable especially in work settings. So are your managers supported and trained to be able to create safe spaces for individuals to ask for help, how to proactively have regular check ins with employees and do they know how to offer and signpost to appropriate support if it’s asked for?

Things you can do to support your teams:

– Introduce mental health days and make it ok to take them. 

– One of our clients has introduced wellbeing days, in recognition of the challenges over the last year. Every employee now gets one Friday in three (on a rota) off, outside their holiday allowance.

– Provide information on where employees can get help.

– Provide training for managers and colleagues.

– Offer coaching to create thinking spaces to reflect and work on the things that are feeling problematic. 

We are passionate about mental health and it is a key part of the work we do within Sparkle. We offer a range of bespoke approaches to ensuring your organisation is equipped and your people supported including mental health coaching, training, workshops and consultancy. We can also help you reflect and evaluate your culture to make changes to how you support the mental and physical wellbeing of your teams. 

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