With approximately one in four people likely to experience a mental health problem this year – it’s no wonder there’s a growing focus on opening up the conversation about mental health and tackling negative attitudes that can prevent people from accessing help.
At Bloomberg, we’re committed to creating a workforce that is confident in understanding, protecting and sustaining the mental health of our colleagues, friends and families. Dispelling mental health myths and raising awareness of the skills needed to manage personal emotional health and support those in need are integral to our approach.
That’s why we’ve introduced the Mental Health First Aider role in our London office, complementing our existing benefit and resource offerings. We trained 15 employees to help promote an open mental health culture by providing a listening ear and offering guidance on finding further support, should employees need it.
We spoke to four Bloomberg employees recently trained as Mental Health First Aiders on the new skills they’ve learned, how we can remove the stigma around mental health, and simple tips for taking care of our mental health.
Madeeha Ahmad (top left), Alex Burkie (top right), Adam Bonehill (bottom left) and Alex Toft (bottom right)
What did you learn in the training that challenged your perception of mental health issues?
Alex Burkie: Like many people, I tend to gravitate to one or two well-known conditions when I hear the phrase ‘mental health’. It was interesting to discover the full spectrum of mental health issues is much broader than I previously realised.
Madeeha Ahmad: I came away with an awareness that mental health is as much a continuum as physical health. There are many triggers in our daily lives which can impact our mental health, some sudden and severe in magnitude, while others build over time. With this in mind it becomes even more important that we actively take care of both our physical and mental well-being, and are open to supporting those suffering from ill health.
What do you think is attributing to the stigma surrounding mental health that prevents people from seeking treatment?
Alex Burkie: People still tend to worry about how they’ll be perceived if they’re open about their experience of mental health, which can impact their ability to ask for help. However, I also feel a gradual change is taking place in society, it’s becoming more acceptable to speak up about your own mental health.
Madeeha Ahmad: While we live in more open minded and tolerant times, there are definitely misconceptions around mental health issues and a fear of having a particular label which can contribute to people delaying in seeking treatment.
What can be done to remove the stigma surrounding mental health?
Madeeha Ahmad: We all have a role to play in removing the stigma around mental health issues and a large part of that is down to better education and awareness. In recent years, many public figures have become involved in raising awareness and this has helped bring this issue to people’s attention.
Starting small, by paying attention to the language we use in every day conversations can have an impact on people’s perceptions. Sharing our own mental health experiences encourages an open and supportive atmosphere, and although taking the first step can be scary – it can have a powerful impact. It’s great to see organisations such as ours investing in, promoting good mental health, and supporting those with ill mental health.
What should people do if they themselves are experiencing mental health issues?
Madeeha Ahmad: Speak to someone about it – don’t ever feel like your problem is too small or too trivial. There are so many options, from family, friends and trusted co-workers to our emergency reps in HR and now also our very own group of Mental Health First Aiders. We’re here to listen and provide support in seeking appropriate professional help.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to support a friend, partner or family member experiencing mental health issues?
Alex Burkie: While we should never be expected to ‘fix’ an issue, we can all be someone who consciously stands strong beside a friend, partner or family member. Your support, encouragement and re-assurance can have a lasting impact. Whether that starts with simply listening with an open mind and helping someone talk through what they’re experiencing, or supporting them in finding professional help, we can all do something to make a difference.
What are a few things someone can do to support their mental health?
Alex Toft: Learn to check in with your feelings regularly. Start by asking yourself if what you are experiencing is having a negative impact on your mental wellbeing – and if it is, what can you do to change that? Spend a minimum of 15 mins every day doing one thing that makes you happy!