Irritability, mood swings, anxiety and social withdrawal are things most of us have probably experienced over the past 12 months.
People from across the UK have had to adapt to huge changes in their daily lives – including working from home, home-schooling and being banned from seeing family and friends face to face.
While many of us will put these down to the ongoing coronavirus restrictions, they can also serve as warning signs and symptoms of mental illness.
This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week which serves to raise awareness about issues around mental health – and shine a spotlight on just how important wellbeing is for businesses and individuals.
Here we take a look at what organisations in Staffordshire are doing to champion mental health inside and outside of the workplace.
First up we have training provider Acacia Training which has pledged to deliver free mental health training to at least 2,000 participants in 2021.
Trentham-based Acacia says demand for its range of mental health courses has increased significantly in the past year as more and more businesses start to recognise the value of such training.
Now the company has committed to reaching more than 2,000 participants with its free one-day mental health first aid course by the end of the year.
CEO Victoria Sylvester said: “First aid training has been commonplace in businesses for many years, yet when we launched our first mental health training course in 2018 it was still a relatively untapped area of training provision.
“We launched a free two-hour mental health awareness course during the first lockdown and witnessed phenomenal demand amongst frontline workers in particular.
“Indeed, the pandemic has brought the importance of recognising and managing mental health to the fore and we know that businesses and individuals alike across all sectors are keen to access this type of training.
“That is why we’ve not only extended our free course to a full day session, but we’re also extending the reach of this course with an aim to engaging with at least 2,000 participants by the end of this year.”
Retail services giant Dee Set embraced the training after seeing 20 staff become mental health first aiders.
With many of the team working at home, the Fenton business has made mental health a high priority throughout the pandemic.
Now, following several days of interactive training, a 20-strong team from Dee Set are well equipped to provide genuine mental health support to colleagues throughout the business.
The training follows the launch of Dee Set’s own internal social media platform at the start of the year – which enables instant two-way dialogue with every individual in the business.
Rob Slaski, chief operating officer at Dee Set, said: “Dee Set colleagues are the heartbeat of our company and provide an exceptional retail service to our clients throughout the UK.
“When Covid-19 struck, we were acutely aware of the human impact it could have on our teammates – especially those working directly at the retail front line.”
Rob added: “Pam Buso stepped forward with the mental health first aiders initiative. Pam led the way, encouraging us to invest in training colleagues and when we asked for candidates we were overwhelmed with the number of teammates who stepped forward to help.
“Now our 20 mental health first aiders use the company’s internal social media platform to stay connected with colleagues and offer everyone the facility of confidential support through online messages, emails and phone calls.
“Of course, it remains hard to predict the twists and turns ahead, but with the help of our new systems and super-engaged colleagues, we’re better equipped than ever to provide the best possible Dee Set service.”
Separately, housing association staff have signed up to volunteer as wellbeing mentors to help increase conversations about mental health in the workplace.
Mentors from the Honeycomb Group, in Stoke, have undertaken training to help them provide wellbeing support to other staff – including signposting, raising awareness and providing a listening ear for those who are struggling.
The mentor scheme is in addition to an employee assistance programme which is already in place at the group.
Honeycomb Group chief executive Diane Thompson said: “We have always been passionate about people.
“The support our brands have provided to local people during the last 12 months has been extraordinary. They have worked tirelessly to make sure our customers are OK, but we want to make sure they’re OK too.
“Building a vibrant culture has always been a priority, but Covid and the new virtual way of working has accelerated the need for more wellbeing support.
“We can’t forget that people are living alone and becoming isolated or that parents are having to juggle work, home-schooling and everything in between.
“There’s also people who have lost loved ones or struggling with their mental health. It would be so easy to miss these things now many are working from home.
“We are passionate about maintaining the incredible support our teams provide in the community but to achieve great things we must make people, mental health and wellbeing a priority.”
Tomorrow, mental health specialist Sheila McMahon will deliver a free webinar to help businesses across Staffordshire.
She has collaborated with Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub for the event – called ‘Roadmap to results: Managing emotions through transitions’ – which is taking place via Zoom on Thursday, May 13 between 2pm and 3pm.
Lichfield-based Sheila, who is the CEO of Mind Management For You, said: “The objective of this webinar is to explore how business owners and sole traders can maintain great mental wellbeing while achieving the results they want.
“The content explores making sense of our emotions over the last year, future roadmaps, roadblocks and how to off load emotions.
“We will look at how to best keep perspective, manage negative thoughts and importantly, how to be your own best friend.”
People can register for a place via the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub website.