Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental health continues to be a major issue across the modern workplace, and the hospitality sector is no different.
23rd October 2023
October is a significant month for Mental Health Awareness. In this time of year in particular, organisations worldwide focus on raising awareness and offer guidance on recognising the early signs of mental health conditions in employees and provide resources for those in need.
With summer’s end and shorter days drawing in, many of us may find ourselves dealing with the changes in our external environment which can significantly impact wellbeing.
The conversation is becoming a commonplace amongst people we work with and those close to us. This, in part, due to the impact of the global pandemic which ushered in changes in terms of behaviour and new ways of working. As stated by the Harvard Business Review in August 2020, “42% of global employees have experienced a decline in mental health since the pandemic began.”
The hospitality industry, linked with travel and its positive impact on wellbeing, is not exempt to the challenges of mental health issues. Our team members and colleagues may silently bear the weight of mental health issues, one would not detect behind the welcoming smiles and warm welcomes they extend to hotel guests.
As an employer, we take responsibility to prioritise the wellbeing of our team members wellbeing, and have crafted an environment that nurtures education, encourages self-care and fosters open conversation. This approach aligns with M&T’s Social Policy, an integral part of our ESG commitment, which centers on creating a better work environment, inclusivity and supporting of our team members. This, in turn, leads to a more positive impact on mental health.
Ensuring that our team members feel valued and comfortable to open up about their issues is paramount, and today we open this forum to one of our on property team members who bravely shares their personal journey through the intricate layers of mental health. Through their story, we aim to shed light on common signs that we can all easily recognise.
Our hope is that this insight serves as a reminder that mental health is a real modern day issue, both in and outside of our industry, and that the experiences shared here may inspire those who read it to perhaps take their first steps in initiating a conversation with a colleague who might need support, or to seek help themselves.
Understanding Early Signs and Conditions
Many years ago, I was suffering with depression brought on by the death of my mother. I was at a loss, felt sad, anxious, upset and unable to focus. I was fortunate to be working in a supportive environment where my manager listened and supported me. Their words that resonated with me the most were: “How can I help? What can I do to ease your pain?” I felt heard and valued in my workplace and if this support wasn’t there, I am not sure how I would have felt.
We all experience periods of low mood in our lives, but when these feelings persist and begin to disrupt our daily lives, this may signal a mental health issue. Your mental health affects how you feel, think and act and it can refer to your emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It can change daily and over time, and can be affected by a range of factors. We will have good days and bad days, and some of us become adept at recognising our triggers. For me, the trigger for loss is a song I associate with my mother, a trigger that can reduce me to tears in an instant. My mother’s loss was sudden and I certainly was never prepared for it. She was my rock and in the blink of an eye that rock was gone. Thanks to the support of my manager, my colleagues and my family, I was able to rebuild my life.
Supporting Colleagues in Their Mental Health Journey
Supporting colleagues through their mental health struggles in the workplace can be challenging – or even considered a taboo subject for some. The fear of not knowing how to respond or what to say often hinders those who genuinely wish to help. However, support is key and just knowing that someone is there for them in priceless.
Employers have the power to empower teams to recognise and support colleagues who are struggling – a responsibility that sits not only with managers, but extends to all team members. Equipping everyone with the tools and the assurance that “It’s OK to not be OK” creates empathetic environment where we all work together with the same goal, to support and be able to give our time to listen, to never judge, often means the difference between feeling lost or supported. We also need to ensure that we are equipped in those first support tools, with mental health first aiders on site who are able to support more complex needs.
Taking Charge of Your Mental Health
Mental health is a personal responsibility, much like taking care of one’s physical health. Your state of wellbeing affects how you manage stress, maintain relationships and make informed choices. It also plays a pivotal role in your relationships with family, community, colleagues and friends.
Some of the signs to look for are:
- Inability to sleep
- Overthinking and self doubt
- Inability to process emotions
- Strained relationships
- Living in an environment of blame and feeling worthless
- Fear culture (no one understands)
- Low self-esteem
- Weight problems
It’s worrying to admit this, but the list is endless.
How You Can Help
In the workplace, being in tune with your team members, noting changes in behaviour and offering time and support are of the utmost value. If you see signs of mental health issues in colleagues, take the time to meet with them for a tea or take them for a walk or consider any of the following:
- Stay in touch while the team member is away from work; learn not to be intrusive, just show you care.
- Fostering a healthy and positive work environment with activities in and out of work - we have created a gardening club and hope it enables the team to see the things that they planted grow into beautiful flowers or produce.
- Encourage social events through a work care committee, where no one is excluded and builds a healthy community
- Organise inclusive charity events where everyone is invited to participate.
- Sharing regular newsletters to keep team members who are on extended leave informed and included.
In conclusion, mental health awareness is a cause that deserves our collective attention and action. By fostering open conversations, creating supportive environments, coupled with extending a compassionate hand to those in need offering assistance to those in need, we can make a significant difference in our workplaces and our communities. It is key to utilise all available resources, such the expertise of Occupational Health representatives who are fully trained to give guidance on adjustment plans for affected employees. Untreated mental health conditions can lead to a myriad of challenges including addiction, substance, suicide or poor quality of life.
Let’s always remember to:
- Listen actively
- Refrain from interruption, allow the speaker to express themselves fully
- Practice non-judgemental listening
- Avoid imposing personal ipinions, or offering unsolicited solutions
Together, we can eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health, empowering individuals to prioritise their wellbeing, just as they would their physical health. Remember, it's okay not to be okay, and by extending a helping hand, we can all play a part in making a positive change in the world of mental health.
For more resources on mental health, visit Mind or other charities who can provide information and initial help.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
Recapping the Highlights of the Annual Hotel Conference 2023
3 November 2023
With industry conference season behind us, we look back and take stock of what we got up to at the 2023 Annual Hotel Conference.
Michels & Taylor Support Macmillan Coffee Morning
2 November 2023
This September, our portfolio of managed hotels enthusiastically rallied together to raise £3310 in support of Macmillan Cancer Support.