“How my employer helped me to cope with my mental health problems”
As someone on the front lines of the cost of living crisis, Peter Locke knows only too well how important it is to recognize the symptoms of mental health problems before they get out of hand.
Yet it wasn’t until he took a mental health course designed to help him see the challenges others faced that he realized he was suffering.
“It was a two-day course and when it came to a session on anxiety, I was like, ‘That’s me!'” says Peter, 39, who works as a communities leader for North Star Housing, which serves some of the most vulnerable people in the world Northeast supported.
At the same time, Peter’s wife, who works for a mental health charity, had also been training and found the same symptoms and behavioral patterns as her husband’s.
This was what prompted him to make an appointment to see a doctor and was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
According to mental health charity Mind, one in six workers struggles with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or stress.
“It can keep people from performing at their best,” says the charity. “Organizations perform better when their employees are healthy, motivated and focused. Smart employers support workers with mental health issues in coping and recovery. The support people receive from employers is critical to how well and how quickly they can return to peak performance.”
Not every employer heeds this advice, but Peter, 39, is fortunate to work for a company that puts the health and well-being of its employees at the heart of its business.
“I feel privileged to be in a work environment where we’re encouraged to talk about mental health and be open about how we’re feeling,” he says. “It’s a responsibility to speak up so others don’t have to go through what I went through working for previous employers.”
Peter’s anxiety began around the age of 18 after his parents divorced. He became nauseous and developed other physical symptoms, but could not link it to a mental illness at this point.
He continued to suffer from it while studying in Leeds and when he started working. “When I first started work and got nervous or anxious, I put it down to having an advantage – and decided it showed I cared about something,” he explains. “There’s a level of anxiety that can be positive — but it’s a fine line before it becomes debilitating.”
The condition worsened when Peter and his wife had their two children, and with the added pressure and responsibilities at home, he became very withdrawn.
North Star was quick to provide support and offer advice – six free sessions, plus more if needed.
“It really helped me to get to the bottom of my problems,” he admits.
“My mental health has never prevented me from functioning at work, but it has had an impact at home and having this support has made me realize that it’s okay to talk. Knowing that you don’t have to hide it and that you can be open is so healthy.”
North Star prides itself on continually developing and reviewing wellbeing initiatives that benefit employees and the company. Several groups have been set up to support this process.
The stronger together The group maintains regular contact with teams across the business to monitor well-being, highlight issues and escalate them to the senior management team. The group has its own budget to organize staff events, internal awards and to support a charity of the year.
The Inclusion Group regularly reviews the organization’s approach to equality and diversity. Initiatives include the development of a training program for members of ethnic minorities. The group was also responsible for bringing in experts to raise awareness about men’s health, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) and disabilities. In 2023, the focus is on neurodiversity and anti-racism.
North Star’s advisory service is confidential. Additional support includes free physical therapy for staff and access to independent financial advice through the Center for Financial Education. In addition, there is a mentoring framework whereby eight experienced employees are selected to act as mentors for advice, motivation and emotional support.
In addition, employees receive 35 volunteer hours per year to broaden their horizons and give them the feel-good factor of contributing to the local community.
“Peter’s story is just one of many examples that remind us why we need to ensure that mental health is at the heart of everything we do – both for service users and for our own employees – and it is a.” An area that we are constantly developing and reviewing.” said Angela Lockwood, Managing Director of North Star.
The organization has seen a 56 per cent increase in referrals to its welfare team over the past year and Peter has no doubt that there is a direct link between the cost of living crisis and mental health.
“It’s having a real impact because people don’t know how to deal with it,” he says. “I speak to tenants every day who ask, ‘How do I put the food on the table?’ How will I heat the house? “How do I pay the rent?” All of this leaves a lot of people feeling hopeless and as an organization we need to understand the challenges people face.”
Dealing with such issues is rewarding for employees, but it can also have an impact on their own mental health, underscoring the importance of having the right support in place.
“If I hadn’t had that mental health training, I would still have struggled, and who knows where that might have led?” says Peter. “Luckily I’m in a place where I know I can get help if I need it — but not everyone is that lucky, right?”
https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/23542449.how-employer-helped-cope-mental-health-challenges/?ref=rss “How my employer helped me to cope with my mental health problems”