Simon was previously the Chief Executive of the National Union of Students and has held numerous other roles in the health and charity sector, making him an ideal person to come and speak to us on issues surrounding mental health.
Today, mental illness in the workplace costs the UK economy £34.9 billion in reduced productivity and sickness absence, according to the Centre for Mental Health. Mental Health First Aid seeks to give everyone the tools to better understand and cope with mental health day to day.
For many of us experiencing mental ill-health, social media can actually make it worse. In his talk, Simon addressed the issue of social media head on by explaining that overall, social media can be a source for good, but it’s how we use it that can cause problems.
Simon explored some of the negative behaviours we see on social media, such as comparison, highlight reels and bullying, as well as positive ones, such as the ability to connect with people you’d never normally meet.
He said, “Social media makes it easy to compare yourself with other people. This, coupled with the fact that people tend to promote only the best parts of themselves online, can have a particularly deflating effect on oneself.
“Our job is to amplify the positives and mitigate the negatives. We have to be careful not to consider all behaviours around social media as being bad rather than just specific behaviours.”
Simon gave a number of coping strategies for dealing with mental health and social media. Students were encouraged to prioritise self-care, try meditation, seek medical advice and talk to a trusted person.
For the second half of his talk, Simon spoke to us about mental health in the workplace. He stressed the importance of taking mental health seriously in order to become a successful leader in today’s world. He also reminded us that although we don’t need to be experts, it’s important that we all know how to have good quality conversations around mental health and how to signpost others to the appropriate support available.
Simon says, “As a manager and leader, the first step in supporting the mental health of your team is to model good behaviour. Think about how this will help people to be well, to help them deliver and to ensure they are successful.”
He went on to explain, “Putting mental health first is a mindset. High performing people are people who are cared for and who care for themselves. Mental health and high performance work together.”
At the end of our session, Simon made an important link between technology and the workplace. Although digital technology can make working life easier, our brains are not designed to be switched on at all times and there is a danger that being so connected to technology can lead to burnout and stress.
He said, “It’s really important to give your brain a rest so I recommend taking a break from your phone and turn notifications of. Go to it when you’re ready for it rather than when it calls you. Email doesn’t have to be on all the time, turn it on for an hour or two then turn it off.”
As a Future Leader, if you are to take just three bits of advice away from this article, it should be:
- Be mindful of how you use social media
- Make sure you have a basic understanding of mental health and mental ill-health
- Have good knowledge of where to signpost people for support in the workplace
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