When it comes to mental health, what we all do on a day-to-day basis matters. We’ll each spend more than a third of our lifetimes at work – only a fraction less than what we’ll probably spend with those we love most.
With so much time spent at our desks, where we work, who we work with and how it makes us feel are actually some of the most important questions we should be asking ourselves.
Yet in an increasingly uncertain world economically and politically, and with technology constantly at our fingertips, the pressure to be ever-present in all aspects of our life can be all too real.
In the push to meet deadlines and impress our peers, how many of us have still been at work watching as the light starts to fade into darkness from the windows?
How many of us have caught ourselves answering phone calls and emails in the evenings, weekends or when we’re supposed to be on holiday?
This unrelenting pressure, particularly when combined with others at home, can be the tipping point that brings someone to a crisis. Yet, only one in 10 of us would feel comfortable telling our managers how we are really feeling.
This combination of workplace commitments and continued stigma around mental health led to Samaritans launching our Wellbeing in the City initiative earlier this year. The programme aims to give those at work more confidence in reaching out to colleagues they might be worried about, as well as giving people the skills to manage their own emotional health and become more resilient.
In the last eight months, 90 per cent of those who have taken part have told us that they feel more confident both in approaching colleagues in distress or looking after their own emotional wellbeing.
At Samaritans we know there is no magic formula and that none of us are able to completely solve somebody else’s problems, but by demonstrating that we care, we can have an equally transformative impact. That’s why this World Mental Health Day we’re working together with organisations from across the country to launch This is Me Scotland; a pioneering group committed to changing attitudes towards mental health in the workplace and collaborating together to reduce stigma, dispel myths and improve employee wellbeing for good.
This Is Me Scotland, mirroring already successful groups in London and Manchester, is a huge step forward in marking a commitment from some of our biggest employers that your wellbeing at work or at home matters and that you shouldn’t be afraid to speak out if you are struggling to cope.
This is crucial because we know that every day suicide is leaving an indelible mark on Scottish families. It’s a complex issue and behind each life lost are communities left with heartache and devastation.
All too often suicide is seen as unpreventable but we know that this is simply not the case. Reducing our nation’s suicide rate is a big challenge that will need collaboration from us all. Members of the public and employers have a role to play too, not just those working in medical or clinical settings.
Samaritans will always be there when it matters most for anyone in crisis. We know that just by listening, or even a simple ‘are you OK?’ we can and will save lives. That’s why our work in workplaces is so important. Whether it is encouraging companies to sign up to take part in Wellbeing in the City or get involved with This Is Me Scotland we know these first steps matter. They can start a journey that helps fewer people reach a crisis point and consider taking their own lives.
I’m always proud to work for Samaritans but particularly so when we can shine a light on positive change happening here and now. Together with the business community in Scotland, we hope that this work will be one part of the jigsaw puzzle that will help us ensure that fewer people die by suicide.
Sign up to Wellbeing in the City at www.samaritans.org/business/wellbeing-city and This Is Me Scotland today and help make working in Scotland happier and healthier.
Natasha MacKinnon is corporate account manager at Samaritans.