Your mental health

Staying sane in difficult times

It may not just be physical health that people are worrying about in these trying times. Mental health could also be suffering as our world is tipped upside down. Bus and Coach Buyer got in touch with mental health organisation, Mind, to offer some help in what operators can do to help protect their own and staff member’s mental health.

Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind, answers our questions.

What advice would you give anyone who is struggling with their mental health due to the economic uncertainty the coronavirus is causing? What would you tell someone who may be facing the prospect of going out of business?

Whether we’re working on the front line delivering vital services or self-isolating, the coronavirus has had a huge impact on the workforce because of the huge amount of economic uncertainty it is causing. It’s normal to feel anxious in uncertain times like this, especially if you already have experience of mental health problems, but there are lots of things you and your employer can do to stay as mentally healthy as possible.

If you know someone is concerned about the prospect of going out of business, make sure they know about whatever wellbeing support their organisation has available and that they know how to access it. At Mind, we’re offering counselling sessions via Skype or phone and we will be trialling the physical activity classes that we offer online. You could also ask your team what tools they might find useful.”

What precautions should transport workers take to help maintain good mental health in these times?

Those on the frontl ine, such as transport workers, might find this a really difficult time, particularly if they are working in a new way. However, there are ways to manage your mental health during this time. If the news is causing you to feel stress or anxiety, switch off for a while. Limit your time consuming social and other media, and do activities like art, reading, or gardening that can help you relax and take your mind off everything. Keeping a regular routine is also important. While your work schedule might have changed, try to keep up with other activities. For example, if you usually go to the gym, try to keep exercising by running or doing work outs at home.

Connecting with others is also essential for all of us during this time. Opening up to someone about your feelings might help you relax, cope with them, and get support. Peer-support groups, many of which can be accessed online, are made up of people with similar worries or mental health problems and can also be really helpful. If negative feelings have been affecting your mental health for a long time, or these feelings keep coming back, speak to your GP who will be able to provide some options for support.”

What are the common things to look out for among staff that show their mental health might be suffering?

Many of us are feeling worried and anxious at the moment so it can be hard to know if someone is experiencing a mental health problem. It’s important to remember that everyone experiences mental health in different ways, and as well as the situation with coronavirus there could be many things affecting them. Some people might not show any outward signs and you should never make assumptions about people’s mental health, but there are some common symptoms to be aware of:

  • They might behave differently – an employee who is normally outgoing and chatty might become withdrawn or stop interacting with colleagues as they usually do.
  • Someone experiencing a mental health problem like depression might struggle with day-to-day tasks and lack motivation, punctuality and decision-making.
  • They might appear tired, anxious or withdrawn and losing interest in activities and tasks they previously enjoyed.
  • You might notice changes in usual habits, such as eating habits, including a loss of appetite or drinking or smoking more than usual.”

What should a boss do if they recognise signs of poor mental health among their staff?

Lone workers like bus and coach drivers might not have much contact with managers or colleagues who could spot the signs of a possible mental health problem. It’s therefore essential that transport employers are promoting workplace wellbeing. Those that do promote it report having more engaged, productive and loyal employees.

Committing to taking mental health seriously can be demonstrated by joining 1000 other employers in signing the Time to Change organisational pledge. Managers can also encourage their staff to fill out Wellness Action Plans (WAPs), which allow you to identify unique triggers, and what helps people stay well, together. Organising regular catch-ups to discuss these is important, particularly as things are changing so quickly in relation to coronavirus and this can impact your mental wellbeing.”

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