Posted 10 October 2018
Interview by Marianne Hanoun

Why mental health at work matters and how Sanctus can help

According to a recent survey by mental health charity, Mind, half of all employees are affected by poor mental health. Work often preoccupies us far beyond the expected work hours, and its impact can be damaging. But while awareness of issues of stress and anxiety has risen, it’s not always easy to know where to start when it comes to finding the right help.

Mental health ‘gym’ Sanctus work directly with businesses to help open up these kinds of conversations. Last month, the team released The Sanctus Directory of Mental Health Services and Professionals. Designed to help anyone find the right help, support, organisation or practitioner for them, it lists everything from phone lines to shelters, counselling options, therapists and more. On top of that, it also works as a dictionary, explaining treatment options – or simply what a therapist is and does – in plain terms. Today, on World Mental Health Day, we speak to Rose Scanlon-Jones, Sanctus’ community manager, who tells us more, and shares some simple first steps that anyone can take to improving their mental health at work.

Why Sanctus exists
At Sanctus, we work with businesses to put qualified and trained mental health professionals and coaches into places of work. Our aim is to change the perception of mental health, and help people work on it in the same way they would their physical health. We believe in helping to bridge that gap between not just having conversations around mental health (which can be quite intimidating) but also the actual accessibility of helping someone work on their mental health.

“You spend 80% of your life at work – and we attach a lot of self-worth and value to it.”

As a global society, we are so much more connected to each other. And as society progresses, we are starting to question the status quo more – whether that’s about sexuality or gender. This is especially true for younger generations who are fed up with older generations telling them how to feel and what to do. We are seeing that en masse: younger generations want purpose in their work, and want to be treated as human beings.

This is why Sanctus is working so well in the workplace. You spend 80% of your life at work – and we attach a lot of self-worth and value to it. So making sure that working environment offers everything you need to be as full and happy as you need to be and deserve to be is so important. This is us saying: It doesn’t have to be this way – and that we want better.

The Sanctus Directory

Creating a directory for good mental health
The overwhelming narrative that we see in mental health is advocates raising the awareness. But once you’ve raised the awareness, what happens then? That’s when people get a bit lost. Some get pointed in the direction of their GP, and CBT [Cognitive Behavioural Therapy], or antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. But then after that has run its course, again, people felt lost. It's one thing to raise awareness, but another to offer actionable help.

We created The Sanctus Directory of Mental Health Services and Professionals out of a giant need we saw: people simply did not know how or where to begin when it came to taking action on improving their mental health. The Directory offers a variety of resources for those who are curious about working on their mental health and finding mental health support. Mental health jargon can be overwhelming, so we added a definitions part to the Directory. This helps answer questions like 'What is a therapist, what is a counsellor? What are they good for?

“When it comes to mental health, your choice of treatment or therapy is as individual and specific as you are.”

The first thing to recognise is that everyone is different. It sounds obvious, but when it comes to mental health, your choice of treatment or therapy is as individual and specific as you are. But if you have recognised you are struggling with your mental health, there are some steps anyone can take to help. These are really basic things, but whether you’re stressed or feel anxious, there is so much research that shows how much your mental health is impacted by your ability to deal with your emotions, to be present and to simply breathe.

Here are some first steps you can take:

1. Talk to someone
It doesn’t have to be a professional, but if you can find someone you feel comfortable talking to – someone you really trust. That’s a great first step. Later on, if you want, you can take it further by talking to therapist or your GP.

2. Write it out
This is a great way to get to know your feelings. Journalling is something that everyone at Sanctus is religious about. Try documenting your feelings daily, and noting down how you felt that day.

3. Try meditation
Meditation may seem obvious but it's massively effective. You could try using apps like Calm or Headspace. Or you can just sit quietly in a room with yourself and focus on your breathing. Try breathing in for four beats, holding for two, breathing out for four.

4. Know that you are not alone
This is another phrase that, as a society, we’re used to hearing a lot. But it’s so important: if you are struggling with your mental health, you need to recognise that you’re not alone. Since I’ve started working in mental health, so many of my friends have started to talk more openly about their mental health. And all it took was for one person in that friendship group to start talking. Know that taking the steps to speak up will also empower other people to speak up, too. It can create a massive ripple effect.

If you want to read more about Sanctus, head to their website here. Or download a PDF version of the Sanctus Directory here.

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Interview by Marianne Hanoun