Anyone can be affected by a mental health condition. This may be ourselves, a family member, a friend, or a colleague. It’s a sobering thought when we hear that around 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental health condition at any one time, and around 50% of GP appointments in the UK are for mental health related issues.
Thankfully, we’re getting better at talking about such issues, and indeed at Target over the past year or so we’ve been further developing our understanding of ‘wellbeing’ and ‘mental health’ conversations.
Supporting everyone at Target’s mental health is just as important as supporting the team's physical health. It isn’t just a ‘good’ or ‘right’ thing to be doing, but it’s something that makes business sense in terms of supporting our people, their families, our communities, and indeed our clients. Supporting mental health at Target is also clearly aligned to our stated and well publicised values which are the bedrock of how we operate each day in the organisation.
In the media we see many celebrities, sports people, and royalty, talk about their mental health struggles and it’s encouraging to see this openness. It’s also encouraging to see many organisations, including schools, faith groups, sports clubs, and many more getting involved in the ‘conversation’ and actively helping people become more aware and confident when talking about mental health and supporting others.
One particular action that many forward-thinking organisations are doing is to support members of the team to become ‘First Aiders for Mental Health’. This is very similar in many ways to ‘physical’ first aiders but with a focus on supporting those who might be struggling with their mental health, be it in the workplace, at home, or in the community.
"Mental Health is not a dirty word… we all have mental health like we have physical health, good or ill."William, Prince of Wales
At the end of 2023 I had the opportunity to facilitate a series of ‘First Aid for Mental Health’ training workshops for 17 Target team members, all of whom successfully became certified ‘First Aiders for Mental Health’. These workshops were specifically designed to help employers like Target provide a positive mental health culture within the workplace and, very importantly, to provide those taking part with comprehensive knowledge on a range of the most common mental health conditions and the skills to be able to act should a condition be suspected.
Becoming a First Aider for Mental Health might sound a bit daunting in the same way that talking about mental health related topics can be difficult for most of us. There’s still a lot of stigma and misunderstandings around the subject. However, through ‘normalising’ mental health conversations we are beginning to break down the barriers, reduce the stigma, and become a bit more confident in talking about it and in supporting others.
As well as being a ‘formal’ learning event the workshops gave everyone who came along the opportunity to get to know others in a way that doesn’t tend to happen through day-to-day work-related interactions. As the workshop facilitator, I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone involved for their open and honest participation, with some great humour along the way!
Here are some comments from those who took part:
- I enjoyed sharing the learning with my colleagues, this helps normalise the mental health conversations going forward.
- It was good to learn about different mental health conditions and how common they are – very insightful.
- Good to hear the experiences of others.
- I see this as an important life skill.
Going forward, we will continue to promote positive mental health at Target, to keep the conversations active, and to support those who took part in the workshops as they support others.
Finally, I’d like to mention something that will be taking place in the coming days…
Throughout the year several dates are set aside to highlight particular mental health related issues and Thursday 1st February has been designated as a national ‘Time to Talk Day 2024’.
This day may mean one thing for one person and a completely different thing for another and that only serves to allow each of us to consider what it may mean for ourselves. It may mean taking the opportunity to check in with someone, maybe someone you haven’t spoken to for a while, or someone you’re concerned about; using whatever means work best for you. For some it may be a time to consider reaching out and getting a bit support for something that you’re struggling with. This can take courage, but many people find that taking a first step in sharing can be helpful in moving an issue or difficulty forward.
What might ‘Time to Talk Day 2024’ mean for you?
"Why can’t people just sit down and have a chat about how they’re feeling over a coffee?"Mary Mair, my mum, who is 88 and has Alzheimer’s
Stevie McLaren- Mental Health Supporter at Target.