By Rebecca Watt – Technician at Avia Sports Cars
According to research carried out by the World Health Organisation, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Only one in eight of those with a mental health problem are receiving help or treatment. Maybe that’s because they do not know what help is out there, or maybe they think it is not important or serious enough. There are many reasons why someone with an issue such as anxiety or depression may not get the help they need.
The truth is, everyone is affected by mental health at least once in their lives. Although women are more likely to be affected, men are three times as likely to take their own lives. There are about 6,000 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland each year and men make up about three quarters of this figure.
Now you’re probably thinking: what has this got to do with the Motor Industry? In fact, the garage trade is particularly affected by instances of poor mental health. Years of heavy lifting, chasing bills and complaining customers can take their toll, but there are many other reasons why an individual who has previously been fine can change to being ‘not okay’ in a short time.
Stress can build up and affect things like productivity, quality of work and physical health. Consider a lean management system, like any used in production factories and distributor’s warehouses. If any issue, no matter how slight is detected, the problem will be flagged and managers will work to resolve the issue as efficiently as possible. If a problem with a machine or industrial system is fixed so quickly, why then has a government report found that 300,000 people with mental health problems lose their jobs each year? It makes no sense.
From a business point of view, it is important to ensure employees are aware of the help available to them. People spend most of their time in the workplace, so giving employees the basic need of connection and being cared for will have a greater impact on their lives and will only then benefit the company. Employees will respond to this and work to their full potential. Studies have shown that 12.7 percent of all sickness absence days in the UK can be linked to mental health conditions. The government report showed that better mental health support in the workplace could save UK business up to £8 billion PA.
So what can be done in the workplace to improve mental health? A good start is if employers can embrace flexible working. Allowing staff to work flexible hours or schedules to suit them would give them the self-care time that they require to continue working to the best of their abilities. It is equally critical to allow employees to have their entitled time off, or holiday days away from the work environment so they can return bright eyed and bushy tailed.
People suffering with mental health problems are urged to see their GP, plus there are lots of charities that can help – Samaritans and their excellent confidential helpline for example. Specifically for our industry, there is the charity BEN which also offers a confidential support line and will work with individuals. They also offer a range of workplace awareness and engagement initiatives, training programmes and digital assets to help promote its services within companies. If you look after your employees, they will look after your company. Mental health should never be ignored.