Daniel Darwin, a Mental Health First Aider and mental health consultant to security training provider StoneHawk, highlights the mental health concerns arising from the lockdown. He tells Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough that jewellery businesses need to prepare to support their staff through mental health issues triggered by worries, uncertainty and financial problems linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
What type of mental health problems are emerging in the UK gems and jewellery industry during the lockdown?
These are anxious times for us all as we continue to live in lockdown to protect our own health, and the health of our families and friends against the coronavirus. This ‘new’ environment brings with it its own set of challenges for mental health and well-being.
The lockdown and self-isolation is a breeding ground for mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, as we wade through the fear of contracting the virus and battle the emotional strains of missing our loved ones with the added financial worries. For some this is a perfect storm and unfortunately these concerns won’t lift easily once lockdown is phased out.
What risks do mental health problems present to businesses and society?
In my opinion mental health awareness within businesses and organisations was on the rise, and rightly so. The increased spotlight on well-being through these difficult times has been well documented. The support and advice is readily available. This is amazing to see and very useful to businesses, individuals and families as we cannot underestimate the effect this has had on all aspects of society.
This support and awareness will not only need to continue but will need to increase and be acknowledged as absolutely necessary for all businesses. Unfortunately, some people may never recover from mental health issues brought about by living in containment and as a society we have to adapt and support these individuals.
Are businesses set up to deal with the challenges that they will be asked to face as they try to return to a semblance of normal trading? Do they have adequate knowledge, training, policies and procedures in place? Are line managers equipped to deal with what might be asked of them from a welfare point of view? Are employees fully aware of what is available to them?
Employees from all walks of life, whether they be young, old, vulnerable, at risk due to underlying health conditions or carers for other family members, will all have their own individual needs regarding support as they return to work. Can the working world cope with the new large-scale demand and adjustment required?
Presumably the problems will get worse the longer the containment continues?
The longer the restrictions remain in place the more issues it presents. It is a daily battle to keep focused and find the positivity. The financial constraints continue to worsen for business owners and in turn these concerns affect employees who worry about their employment status.
There are anxieties about what life will look like when the lockdown is lifted. Will the support from the government continue to be as good as it has been through this initial period or will it disappear? For some, this cycle of mental or financial difficulties could continue for months if not years after lockdown.
After such a long layoff many companies would look at a phased return to build an individual employee’s stamina and prevent both mental and physical fatigue and burn out, but is it possible to do this on such a large scale?
What are the ways forward to solve this? Who needs to get involved?
The first step is for individuals and employers to recognise the concerns, and to think about what measures can be put in place whilst still supporting a return to business as usual. Giving employees as much information and support as possible will offer reassurance.
Adequate training for line managers will be required to deal with varying mental health issues. Support from senior management will be needed to aid these individuals. Also, it will be important to ensure that policies and procedures are set out in a strategic led response.
Creating an open environment in the work place will help — actively encouraging employees to talk about any issues and allowing support to be offered when needed. Also breaking stigmas related to mental illness. It is good to talk!
The need for basic mental health awareness and support in the workplace was in focus prior to the coronavirus outbreak but now it will be essential to support a work force who will face a daily battle of misinformation, fear and exposure to the virus as they go about their commute and business in this new world.
What can StoneHawk do?
StoneHawk can provide support to organisations and their employees to create both a short-term and long-term strategy throughout the business in regard to mental health in the workplace.
We can assist with the specialist advice and help in the provision of training to all staff around mental health awareness, which will empower employees to understand what mental health is and give a basic knowledge of some common mental health issues.
This in turn allows them to look after their own mental health and well-being, and develops confidence to offer support to someone in distress or who may be experiencing a mental health issue.
Just as we have first aid trained staff, each business should consider training a number of employees as Mental Health First Aiders. This forms part of a longer-term approach strategy to support employees in the workplace, and to signpost them to relevant support services to promote a positive culture towards Mental Health.