Mental Health at work: Why it’s important to discuss mental health issues

Mental health is a serious topic for many people. It’s something that we don’t often want to talk about, but the reality is, when you work with others and are in a position of leadership, it cannot be ignored. When you’re in charge of people who rely on your guidance and direction for their livelihoods every day, you have a responsibility to make sure they know what resources are available if they need them. That’s why Dyce Carriers take the time to ensure drivers understand mental health issues and know where they can get help if needed – all while making sure drivers feel comfortable discussing mental health topics at work.

What is mental health awareness in the workplace?

Mental wellbeing is being able to cope with the day-to-day stresses of life, being able to work productively and positively with others, and realise one’s self-worth and potential.

The stress that Covid-19 has placed on our lives, coupled with financial and job insecurity has had a huge impact on people’s mental wellbeing.

At Dyce Carriers, we were fortunate in many ways to be classed as keyworkers, and while our office staff were able to continue working from home our drivers remained out on the road, transporting essential cargo for businesses all over the UK.

Some people have struggled to adapt to the “new normal” of working from home as they may develop feelings of isolation, anxiety, or depression. Others find freedom and flexibility in remote working, preferring this to office life.

HGV drivers experience something similar. On one hand is a sense of freedom, out on the road, soaking in the scenery; on the other loneliness and a lot of time to be left alone with your thoughts. It is understandable why drivers might feel anxious or depressed, particularly at a time when our country has been surrounded by such uncertainty.

Add to that a stigma around mental health and culture which has traditionally encouraged men to suppress their emotions and “toughen up”, it is easy to see how truckers may struggle to open up about their mental health.

At Dyce Carriers, we make it our job to ensure the wellbeing and happiness of our team. No one gets left behind.

Why should employers care about mental health at work?

We spend a considerable amount of time at work so it is really important that people are able to reach out to their co-workers when they need support, and that employees can recognise the signs of a colleague who is in need of help.

Discussing mental health openly in the workplace helps to wash away the negative stigmatism that is associated with mental illness making it easier for staff to be honest about any issues they may be experiencing.

Apart from being the right and humane thing to do to make sure everyone in your team is valued and cared for at work, it is also good for business and long-term productivity as it prevents employees from reaching mental exhaustion or burnout.

We seek to minimise sources of unnecessary stress and promote good mental health and wellbeing at work so our team will always be at their best, both personally and professionally. This is particularly important for our drivers who shoulder an immense responsibility and regularly use heavy and dangerous equipment to lift, transport and offload precious cargo for our customers.

How do we do it?

There are several ways to reduce stress at work, including promoting healthy living and a strong work/life balance, addressing any practices that may cause avoidable stress to employees, and making our operational systems more effective.

Our Aberdeen Yard Manager, Gary Kinnell, goes above and beyond in his role. Gary completed a number of mental health training and suicide prevention training courses with the NHS a few years ago which he puts to good use.

Gary runs a series of mental health awareness presentations, which continue to play on a loop through our TVs and provides support materials to staff that can be found posted around the premises. He utilises materials from the NHS team in Aberdeen, posters, leaflets and so on that promote healthy wellbeing.

Perhaps most importantly, he speaks regularly with the drivers on his team in a one-on-one to check in on how they are doing. Often our drivers will come to him if they are having any issues. It takes a lot of confidence for an employee to raise concerns about mental health issues they may be experiencing before it gets out of control. This is only possible if the working environment supports that.

“It helps if you have an open-door policy,” remarked Gary, “which all the staff knows I have.”

“During the pandemic, I was calling the drivers on a daily and weekly basis as there was a lot of anxiety going about, which the team was really grateful for, including the management in the depots.”

“I am hoping to get on some mental health ambassador training courses now that classroom-based training is starting to come back.”

“Gary has done a lot to help open up a dialogue about mental health in the workplace and encouraged our team to be more thoughtful about the impact they have on each other and allowed us all to talk honestly about difficult topics.” said Jason Moir, Managing Director. “Every workplace should have someone like Gary.”

Another way to support employees is by investing in state-of-the-art equipment that will make their time at work easier, safer, and enjoyable. The trucks we deploy for national haulage journeys are fully equipped with a top-of-the-range XXL cab which includes a fridge, microwave, TV, coffee maker, and leather interior for maximum comfort. It’s so important to invest in equipment that is both efficient and reliable so that our team can be sure it will not fail them.

How to help a colleague who is struggling with mental health

Step 1. Reassurance:

The first step is to reassure them that it’s OK to talk about these issues and that their feelings will be respected. If they are not ready to open up or are worried about speaking to a manager then let them know that you care and will be there for them when the time is right.

Step 2. Encouragement

The next step is to encourage them to speak with the manager or supervisor one-to-one about their mental wellbeing and ask for support. Remind them that help is available.

Step 3. Avoid making assumptions.

Everybody experiences mental illnesses in different ways. Avoid making any assumptions about a person’s symptoms and their ability to carry out their work. There are many people who are able to manage their mental health problems and function highly at work. 

Step 4. Respect confidentiality.

Ensure their privacy is respected by not discussing anything they have revealed to you in confidence.

Our final thoughts

Being able to talk openly about mental health in the workplace is essential. Like physical illness, mental illness must be treated with equal severity and steps must be taken to ensure employees feel safe and supported at work. Work is where we spend most of our time, so having strong relationships with our co-workers and reducing unnecessary stresses in the workplace goes a long way to helping improve the mood and productivity of your team. Make sure to do what you can to create an open culture at work where staff feel confident enough to speak truthfully about any struggles they may be experiencing and get the help they need.

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