Mental Health Matters

The impact of Covid-19 on Mental Health

Celebrated annually by the Mental Health Foundation, this year’s focus is on the theme of nature and the environment. It is reported that 1 in 4 people suffer from mental health problems of some kind each year in the UK. For this reason, mental health is it at every stage of life, from childhood up to adulthood. Following a difficult and repetitive year of being in lockdown, this week allows everyone to discuss all aspects of mental health and providing help and advice. COVID-19 has made us realise that having access to nature is crucial to our health. Especially after a year where we have seen more of our four walls than the four seasons. As doors close, socialising stops and silence falls, people started to feel isolated and alone.

We have seen more people in parks, outdoors, cycling, but some of us watched Netflix! (myself included) in the past year. Here are some soothing benefits that green outdoors spaces offer:

  • Being outdoors helps to prevent stress and makes us reflect and value our life and experiences
  • Taking notice of the small things and showing appreciation can help you have a positive mentality
  • Expands our creativity and helps with empathy

Mental Health at Work

Mental health problems affect many employees, which often gets overlooked as people usually hide them. At the same time, employers might want to help but are not sure how to. Work is the greatest cause of stress in people’s lives. 1 in 5 people feel unable to manage stress and pressure at the workplace. Everyone experiences having tough times when they feel low, stressed or frightened. Normally, those feelings pass, but sometimes they develop into anxiety or depression. As a result, mental health disorders often go unrecognised and untreated, which is not only damaging an individual’s health and career but can also affect one’s ability to engage and perform at work at a consistently high level. This indicates that employers need to try harder to communicate with their employees about the support that is available for them about stress but also to educate them and explain how to manage it. Raising awareness of possible mental health issues in the workplace is part of creating an unhindered workplace, where employees feel comfortable bringing their own character to work. Good mental health enables employees to thrive. Research studies offer strong evidence that businesses with high levels of mental health awareness are more prosperous. According to research by the University of Warwick, addressing wellbeing at work increases productivity by up to 12%. Having good well-being at work then relates to the business goal of being mindful and improving everyone’s mental health in the workplace, so that everyone feels supported and included, particularly in the more difficult times.

Support Network at The Workplace

One of the fastest ways to reduce stress at work is if an employer can remove an employee from a stressful situation by letting them take short breaks. It is simple but effective. But more can be done to raise awareness of how to manage stress and improve wellbeing by:

  • Inviting professionals from a leading charity to talk about how to manage stress at work
  • Setting up a permanent Mental Health Awareness Team at work so employees can discuss their feelings in confidence
  • The power of just listening should not be underestimated.
  • Promoting mental health charity helplines and making them visible in the workplace
  • Training an HR team or a Mental Health Awareness Team to be able to recognise when someone is struggling and to promote a culture of wellbeing

From a business perspective, having a positive approach to mental health can often lead to a reduction of staff absences and turnover. In the long-term, it can increase productivity and time management, which normally only takes a couple of small adjustments. This includes but is not limited to: opening up a conversation, ensuring confidentiality, encouraging professional support, working together and developing an action plan. Taking necessary steps like these can help improve people’s mentality towards work and how they behave.

 Useful Helplines

If you are struggling with mental health issues there is help available for you to contact, you do not need to suffer alone. Below are some confidential helplines you can call:

  • Minds is a UK charity that is a leading force for change and is there for everyone who wants to talk. Starting a conversation will be the first step to improve your well-being and mental health. Contact them on 0300 123 3393
  • Another charity is Samaritans which is an around-the-clock helpline for people struggling with mental health. Its mission is to prevent and lower the numbers of death due to suicide. You can call them on 116 123 for free or email [email protected]
  • YoungMinds supports mental health issues who are 24 years old and under, indicating a necessity for early prevention. This helpline specifically addresses concerned parents and they can call too on 020 7089 5050
  • CALM is a leading movement against suicide. They run a free and confidential helpline for anyone who wants to talk about their life’s problems. This campaign aims to support men aged between 15-35, however, help is available to everyone. You can call them on 0800 58 58 58 or use their webchat service

Nurturing Effect of Nature During COVID-19

The impact of Covid-19 on Mental Health

Many people sought a nurturing effect of nature during COVID-19  

The outbreak of the global pandemic that occurred at the start of 2020 has forced many people to work from home. People who switched to working from home due to COVID-19 experienced an impact on their mental health and wellbeing. Bereavement, loss of income, fear, not being connected to colleagues and preventative measures like quarantine have proved to be difficult to deal with.  

Impact of working from home during COVID-19 

Although standard home working has its benefitslockdown-enforced home working can have a significant impact on the mental and physical health of a person. A recent survey by the Royal Society for Public Health revealed that 67% of people who worked from home during COVID-19 felt less connected with their colleagues, and 56% saying they found it harder to stop thinking about workHowever, more people felt standard working from home was better for their wellbeing through avoiding the commute.  

Using nature as an escape 

Spending time outdoors boosts our health and well-being. We feel energised and happy for days, after spending time on a beach or amongst natureThe national lockdowns were a harsh reminder of thatAs people were not able to leave their houses, unless it was considered essential or was a part of their daily exercise, they had to find a way to cope with the mental pressure or find a way to relieve stress 

As a result, we saw many people seeking a change of scenery by turning towards nature to help them release mental pressure and take their mind off work.  

Outdoor activities such as walking and cycling became more common amongst people. The lockdowns also gave people more time to connect with their pets in parks and open spacesLitter-picking walks also became more common as they allowed people to clear their mind by being amongst nature whilst helping the environment at the same time. People who owned allotments were able to utilise them to escape from indoors and help reduce stress levelsThe lucky ones had more time to sit in their back gardens and appreciate the nature around them.  

Bringing nature inside 

The strong connection between being around nature and having lower stress, anxiety, and depression levels cannot be underestimated. Therefore, it was only natural that many people decided to bring nature within their homes. Social media was full of people buying flowers or potted plants for their homes or growing flowers and vegetables on their window sills to help improve their mental health.  

Many people who did not own a garden, or have any outdoor space where they could carry out some gardening, decided to grow plants inside their homes instead. Some parents thought of gardening as a great way to keep their children entertained during the lockdown, as schools were closed, and as a result the sales of fruit and vegetable seeds, bulbs and indoor plants significantly increased. One plant store claimed its sales had increased by 500% during lockdown and the well-known DIY chain store said the number of fruit and vegetable plants purchased had risen by 45% compared with the same time the previous year.  

From this, it is clear to see that people are naturally drawn to nature in tough timesSimple things like tending to a house plant, planting fruit and vegetables, smelling flowers plays a huge part in improving people’s mental and physical health and gives people a sense of happiness and hope during a challenging time