Let’s Improve Bipolar Disorder Awareness

World Bipolar Day is observed on March 30th every year, on the renowned Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday after he was posthumously diagnosed with bipolar disorder. World Bipolar Day educates and advocates for the spread of information and de-stigmatisation of bipolar disorder.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme (depression) to the other (mania). Bipolar disorder used to be known as manic depression.

People with bipolar disorder have episodes of:

  • depression – feeling very low and lethargic
  • mania – feeling very high and overactive

Symptoms of bipolar disorder depend on which mood you are experiencing.

Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks (or even longer). These swings in mood are sometimes called mood episodes or mood states. Not everyone experiences mood episodes in the same way or for the same amount of time.

If you would like to learn more about bipolar disorder, Shawmind’s online course “Understanding Bipolar Disorder” will teach the learner about what bipolar disorder is, how it affects people, how it can be managed and how you can support someone struggling.

How can you help someone struggling with bipolar disorder?

Dealing with the highs and lows of bipolar disorder can be difficult—and not just for the person with the illness. Everyone around a person with bipolar disorder is affected by their emotions and behaviours, especially family members and close friends. It might put a strain on your relationship or cause friction in your home.

You may encounter irrational behaviour, excessive demands, volatile outbursts, and questionable judgments during a manic episode. And once the mania has passed, you might have to help pick up the slack for a loved one who doesn’t have the stamina to accomplish tasks at home or work during depressive periods.

The good news is that with adequate treatment, medication, and support, most people with bipolar disorder can stabilise their moods. Your patience, compassion, and understanding can go a long way toward helping your loved one get better. Having someone to talk to can often make an enormous difference in a person’s outlook and motivation.

You can support someone with bipolar disorder by:

1. Learning about bipolar disorder.

Learn everything you can about the symptoms and treatment options. The more you know about bipolar disorder, the better equipped you’ll be to help your loved one and keep things in perspective.

2. Encouraging the person to get professional help.

The sooner bipolar disorder is treated, the better the prognosis, so urge your loved one to seek professional help right away. Don’t wait to see if they will get better without treatment.

3. Being understanding.

If they need a sympathetic ear, encouragement, or treatment support, let them know you’re there for them. People with bipolar disorder are sometimes hesitant to seek help because they don’t want to burden others, so reassure them that you care and will do everything you can to assist them.

4. Showing patience.

Getting better takes time, even when a person is committed to treatment. Expect neither a speedy recovery nor a long-term cure. Be patient with the recovery process and prepare for setbacks and hardships. Bipolar disorder management can be a lifetime process.

Shawmind offer a 2-day Mental Health First Aid Course, which teaches the skills and knowledge for the learner to act as the first point of contact for anyone who wants to discuss their mental health. A mental health first aider can provide advice and support in a confidential, non-judgemental way before a professional mental health specialist is contacted.

Shawmind’s Mental Health First Aid course costs £250 per person– discounts are available for group bookings of 6-12 people. Contact us for more information, available dates, or to make a booking.

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Minimising Stress and Anxiety in the Classroom

A common mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression affects 1 in 6 young individuals. Although 75% of diagnosable mental health issues appear before the age of eighteen, it takes an average of ten years to acquire adequate treatment.

Since depression and anxiety are among the top causes of mental illness and disability among adolescents, it is critical for those who work with children to be conscious of minimising stress and anxiety in the classroom and to be able to spot the signs of a child in distress.

What are the signs of stress and anxiety in the classroom?

With children spending seven hours a day at school, teachers need to know the signs of stress and anxiety. Here are some signs that teachers should be aware of:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor performance
  • Feeling tired
  • Change in eating habits
  • Easily angered or irritated
  • Frequent toilet visits
  • Constant worrying and negative thoughts
  • Complaining of physical pain like stomach aches and headaches
  • Emotional outbursts (e.g., crying or tantrums)
  • Being clingy
  • Disruptive behaviour

Symptoms of mental health conditions can often overlap (i.e. they are often ‘comorbid’). Also, a single instance may not always be cause for concern however if you notice multiple instances or a prolonged period of emotional and physical symptoms, longer than two weeks, for example, you should seek professional help.

Some schools have a designated mental health lead, a Mental Health First Aider, or Youth Mental Health First Aider, however, having all staff equipped with the ability to recognise mental health symptoms and the ability to support your Mental Health First Aider / designated mental health lead will lay the foundations for you to provide the necessary support to all students and create a positive classroom environment.

You’ll be better equipped to help someone struggling with mental health and facilitate their recovery if you understand the symptoms. All these topics and more are covered in our Basics of Mental Health Support training course, which provides an introduction to the mental health process. Or, how about placing teachers on our CPD-accredited Youth Mental Health Awareness course.

What can be done to reduce stress and anxiety in the classroom?

The best thing you can do to help reduce stress and anxiety in the classroom is to understand what factors affect mental health and work on limiting these.

There are occasions when factors in a child’s school environment can have an impact on their mental health, for example, public speaking, unfamiliar transitions and bullying. Identifying these factors can help you better understand how to help someone who is going through a difficult time. Cyberbullying, for example, can have a negative impact on young people’s mental health.

Understanding what it is, how it occurs, and how it affects people’s mental health can enable you to provide support to individuals who are affected while also reducing their exposure to it in the school setting.

We offer a variety of self-learning courses available to help you improve your mental health knowledge and provide the best possible environment for your classroom.

How can pupils be supported through stress and anxiety?

1. Start a conversation about mental health

One of the best ways to ensure mental health is spoken about in your classroom is to raise the topic yourself. This will increase the children’s awareness, reduce stigma around the topic and increase the likelihood that they will seek help when they need it.

We love starting with:

“Tell me about a time when you were happy/sad/stressed…”

“How well do you feel on a scale of 1-10?”

Opening up this conversation can feel daunting and adults often worry they will say or do the wrong thing. Here are some tips on talking to children about mental health that we find effective.

2. Read about mental health

Providing books that discuss various aspects of mental health is also great for creating an open space for mental health discussions. These books can also help children develop empathy towards people struggling with mental health issues, reduce stigma surrounding the topic and create confidence to seek help when it is needed.

Here are some children’s mental health books that we love. These range from short, fun, illustrated tales for younger children to longer features suited to older children and teenagers.

3. Mental health classroom activities

Sometimes the best learning is done through fun! We suggest opening up a mental health dialogue through doing engaging activities with the class. There are lots of great activities available online that tackle mental health in an age-appropriate way, allowing for children to learn how to articulate their thoughts and feelings.

Our #SockItToStigma activity pack can be a fun starting point to open opportunities to speak about mental health, breaking the stigma around this serious subject.

4. Complete mental health training courses

At Shawmind, we offer a wide variety of mental health courses designed for individuals and professionals to develop their understanding of mental health, learn how to best support young people, and what to do in an emergency.

We are also raising funds for our Headucation campaign that will enable us to offer free mental health education for teachers. We are mobilizing corporate sponsors and individuals to help us bring about a transformation in the mental health of the next generation: working with local educational authorities and partner organisations we are bringing a whole-school approach to mental health, helping schools to develop a culture shift towards sustainable better mental health and wellbeing – free of charge to the schools.

Help us by donating, fundraising or signing up for one of our courses.

Donate to #Headucation2025

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Why are mental health first aiders important in the workplace?

In the same way you would plan for the risk of physical harm in the workplace, having a colleague with mental health first aid training is a crucial tool for keeping your team’s wellbeing front and centre.

Employees who are in good mental health are more likely to work productively, form strong relationships with their co-workers, show up for work regularly, and be more engaged with the organisation.

Mental health issues are common in the workplace though often not spoken about. Anxiety and depression are the two most common conditions in the workplace, and still today many people are not well informed or knowledgeable about what these are, how they occur, and what can be done about them.

What is mental health first aid?

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an internationally recognised training programme that teaches people how to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health struggles and provide help on a first aid basis.

Incorporating MHFA training into any organisation or community also helps individuals to talk about mental health more openly, decreasing stigma and fostering a more positive workplace wellbeing culture.

What do mental health first aiders do?

A mental health first aider acts as the first point of contact for anyone who wants to discuss their mental health. This interaction could range from having an initial conversation through to supporting the person to get appropriate urgent help. As well as in a crisis, Mental Health First Aiders are valuable in providing early intervention help for someone who may be developing a mental health issue. The MHFA trained employee can provide active listening and guidance in a confidential, non-judgemental way and can signpost the person to useful resources available within the organisation and externally.

Mental Health First Aiders are not trained to be counsellors, therapists or psychiatrists, but they can offer initial support through non-judgemental listening and guidance.

Mental Health First Aiders are trained to:

  • Spot the early signs and symptoms of mental ill-health
  • Start a supportive conversation with a colleague who may be experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress
  • Listen to the person non-judgementally
  • Assess the risk of suicide or self-harm and escalate to the appropriate emergency services, if necessary
  • Encourage the person to access appropriate professional support or self-help strategies.
  • Maintain confidentiality at all times, only disclosing to the person’s line manager or HR with their consent

Why are mental health first aiders important in the workplace?

Having employees educated in mental health first aid ensures that there is always someone in the office who can identify the first signs of a colleague in distress as soon as they appear. This means that someone who is struggling for example with anxiety or stress can get help before problems develop further into things like burnout or depression.

In the workplace, there can be a stigma associated with mental health, which Mental Health First Aiders can assist to eliminate. Staff training in MHFA will demonstrate to anyone who is suffering that your organisation will assist and guide them. It will facilitate communication between your employees and management because they will know that they will be supported rather than belittled or discriminated against.

A healthy workplace starts with healthy employees. One of the most significant expenditures for businesses is lost productivity due to mental illness. Employees and supervisors benefit from having someone educated in MHFA because they will know what to look for and say, making them feel healthier and more supported when it comes to mental health, and most importantly will feel that management really cares.

Unfortunately, one of the most common causes for employees being placed on long-term sick leave is mental illness. Companies can save money and time by having workers who are trained to intervene and provide staff support when problems arise. This is preferable to failing to support colleagues and the problems become so serious that the employee is forced to take time off.

Do you want to book a Mental Health First Aid course?

Our Mental Health First Aid course costs £275 per person– discounts are available for group bookings of 12 people. Contact us for more information, available dates, or to make a booking, or to learn more about other mental health & wellbeing courses we offer .

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How to help someone with an eating disorder

An eating disorder is a complex mental health condition where an individual utilises control of food to cope with negative feelings, often associated with body image. This condition affects 1 in 50 people in the UK of all ages and genders. Although often diagnosed in teenagers and young adults, the first signs can sometimes develop at a much younger age. The condition is often very hard to diagnose in children as they present differently than in older individuals.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week aims to shine a spotlight on eating disorders. Many eating disorders can be hard to recognise as the signs are not widely known. This can lead to people struggling with eating disorders going without help both from those close to them and from experts.

Someone with an eating disorder requires medical and psychological help, however, support from friends and loved ones is also highly important.

How can you recognise the signs of an eating disorder?

Stereotypes around eating disorders have made them harder to identify. Stereotypes suggest the primary way to identify an eating disorder is weight loss, however, 85% of people with eating disorders are not underweight. The way eating disorders present can vary significantly from person to person which is why this mental health condition can be so difficult to identify.

Aside from weight, some of the signs to look out for include:

  • Frequent comments about weight, food, and size
  • Secretive about eating habits
  • Reluctance to eat with others
  • Toilet visits straight after eating

How can you support someone with an eating disorder?

If you are worried that someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder you may wish to raise this issue with them. This can be a difficult situation if you don’t fully understand the condition or how to talk to someone effectively about their mental health.

Utilise good information sources

Informing yourself before entering into this conversation can help you think more about what you wish to say and how to begin this dialogue most effectively. Utilising good information sources will help you better understand eating disorders and the steps that need to be taken to help someone with the condition. This could also provide you with stories and testimonials from other individuals who have struggled with an eating disorder to show the individual you are supporting that they are not alone and there is help available.

Create a calming atmosphere

Find a private space where you can offer support without being disturbed or making the individual feel uncomfortable or anxious. Eating disorders often stem from feelings of anxiety and a lack of control. Providing a safe and inviting environment will create a calming atmosphere where you can offer support. Simply showing them you are there and providing a space to talk and listen can have a positive impact on an individual struggling with an eating disorder.

Avoid anger and judgement

Eating disorders are closely linked to emotions and therefore avoiding anger or judgement is very important when offering support. Ensure you remain calm and simply provide unbiased comfort. Avoiding bringing up these conversations around mealtimes can help remove some negative feelings from the individual you are trying to support.

Seek medical help

An eating disorder is a complex mental health condition and therefore patience is extremely important when helping someone with this condition. Offering mental and physical support can be highly effective methods of offering help, however, professional support is often necessary, and recovery can be a long process. Seeking medical support quickly, such as visiting a GP, can be highly beneficial for recovery.

Avoid conversations around body image

Eating disorders are often associated with body image and control. Avoid commenting on their appearance or body image as this is often an area of sensitivity and can negatively impact the progression of your conversation. Equally, try to limit situations where this individual may feel uncomfortable around their appearance and body image during both social and private situations.

Eating disorders can often be hard to recognise in both children and adults. Having individuals trained on eating disorders within schools and workplaces can be very beneficial in helping diagnose and support people sooner rather than later.

Do you want to learn more about what eating disorders are and how they affect people? Take our understanding eating disorders course to gain a strong understanding of how eating disorders can be treated and how you can support someone struggling with this mental health condition.

All funds raised from our training courses go into our #Headucation campaign to train teachers to support children and young people with common mental health conditions, like eating disorders, at a young age to prevent further issues when they’re older.

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What are the types of mental health stigma?

What is mental health stigma?

Mental health stigma is a negative attitude or negative treatment of an individual or group due to a voiced or perceived mental health condition – i.e. discrimination or a view that someone is ‘less than’ because of their mental health.

Types of mental health stigma

The British Association for Psychopharmacology has shared their 2 main types of mental health stigma:

  • Social stigma (aka public stigma)
  • Self-stigma

However, it is also worth acknowledging a few other types of stigma that mental health practitioners have identified, including:

  • Perceived Stigma
  • Structural Stigma
  • Professional Stigma (aka Healthcare Stigma)

Social Stigma

Social stigma (or public stigma) is when members of the general public endorse or facilitate a negative attitude or treatment towards those with mental health conditions e.g. using them as a comedic punchline or dramatized scare tactic on TV.

Social stigma also includes when those close to you, such as friends, family, and colleagues, treat you less favourable due to a mental health condition.

Self Stigma

Self-stigma can be one of the most challenging stigmas to overcome and one of the most harmful. Self-stigma is when you believe you are less deserving of help or an opportunity due to your condition. This is often developed through exposure to social stigma that ultimately results in you developing these internal beliefs. Self-stigma can lead to feelings of shame and hopelessness in the face of mental ill health.

Perceived Stigma

Similarly to self-stigma, perceived stigma relates to the beliefs that you as an individual has. Perceived stigma is when you believe you will be treated differently by others due to their negative attitudes towards mental health.

After self-stigma, perceived stigma can be one of the biggest barriers to individuals opening up about their mental health struggles and seeking the help they need.

Structural Stigma

Structural stigma (aka institutional stigma) is when a system is structured in a way – either intentionally or unintentionally – that those with mental health conditions suffer or have fewer opportunities to succeed than those without a mental health condition.

Professional Stigma

Professional stigma occurs in any healthcare setting where a patient is judged based on their mental health condition for unrelated causes. E.g. When those prone to anxiety and stress complain about headaches, many GPs will simply put this down to their stress levels rather than investigate further for a physical cause.

The effects of mental health stigma

Stigma is caused by a combination of misinformation, a lack of knowledge, and ultimately, fear. This dangerous combination can lead to discrimination and misleading stereotypes in popular media.

Mental health stigma can have a particularly dangerous effect on young people – leaving them feeling isolated, ashamed, and scared to ask for help.

  • More than a third of young people have felt the negative impact of mental health stigma
  • School is where most young people experience stigma
  • More than half of young people experience mental health stigma from their own friends
  • 70% of young people said stigma made them less likely to open up about their mental health

How to combat mental health stigma

Fight mental health stigma and the effect it has on those with mental health by practising 3 simple things:

  1. Talk about mental health regularly to normalise the topic
  2. Educate yourself and others to reduce misinformation
  3. Evaluate how you perceive and treat mental health in everyday life

Read more: 3 simple ways to fight mental health stigma

Stigma is one of the biggest factors that prevent people from seeking help and talking about their mental health. Our #SockItToStigma campaign aims to get workplaces talking about mental health in a safe, non-judgmental environment to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health. All funds raised during this campaign go straight to our #Headucation fund to support children with mental health and stop stigma before it can start.

Find out how your workplace or your school can get involved with #SockItToStigma 2022 or donate now to support children’s mental health and stop stigma in its tracks.

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How to support mental health in classrooms

Mental health affects many children, with 75% of diagnosable mental health conditions being present before the age of eighteen. Mental health in young people often goes undiagnosed, however, with an estimated 20% of children having an undiagnosed mental illness.

With depression and anxiety being some of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents it is crucial for those working with children to be able to recognise the signs of mental health conditions in adolescence and understand how to support them effectively.

Although mental health training in schools isn’t considered “mandatory” by the government, teachers play a key role in supporting good mental health. Without the right training, however, it can be hard to know how to support mental health in the classroom. Training initiatives and campaigns such as Headucation can support you in better understanding mental health in the classroom and how you can support your students.

Tips for supporting mental health in classrooms:

1. Understand mental health needs within schools.

Being able to define mental health in children and understanding the factors that affect children’s mental health is an important step in learning how you can support mental health within classrooms. Mental health affects all children differently and therefore having a solid understanding of the needs within your school will allow you to provide the right support and information to students experiencing mental health issues. Have a look at our Youth Mental Health Awareness training course if you are looking to upskill and educate yourself or your staff to help you understand the mental health needs within your school.

2. Learn to recognise and understand the symptoms of mental health

Most schools should have a trained Mental Health First Aider, or Youth Mental Health First Aider, however providing all staff with the knowledge they need to recognise and understand mental health symptoms will give you the ability to support your Mental Health First Aider and will lay the foundations for you to implement a mental wellbeing plan. By understanding the symptoms, you will be better equipped to give support to someone struggling with mental health and facilitate the recovery process. Our Basics of Mental Health Support training course provides an overview of the mental health process that covers all of these areas and more.

3. Understand what factors affect mental health in classrooms. How can you limit these?

Sometimes there can be factors within a school setting that can affect a child’s mental health. Identifying these factors can allow you to better understand how to support someone struggling with it. Cyberbullying, for example, can affect mental health in young people. Understanding what it is, how it occurs and the effect it has on people’s mental health will allow you to both offer support to those affected and reduce their exposure to it within the school environment. We offer several self-learning courses that support your understanding of different areas of mental health and factors that can affect mental health in individuals.

4. Educate students about mental health

Learning about mental health in schools helps to reduce stigma around the topic by raising awareness and providing children with accurate information. By starting a conversation with young people about mental health you can increase their understanding and awareness and reduce stigmas and the fear of judgement often associated with mental health. Read more about different ways to start a conversation about mental health in your classroom.

There is a lot of stigma around mental health, especially in young people, and it can therefore be difficult to identify mental health concerns in schools. Following the above tips can help you support young people struggling with mental health, however, it is equally important to remove the stigma associated with it. This February we are running out annual Sock it to Stigma! campaign to raise awareness about the stigma associated with mental health and the damage it can cause. Help your school show an understanding and acceptance of mental and emotional wellbeing challenges in both children and staff. #SockItToStigma is a fun and interactive way to get these conversations started. Use this opportunity to talk about mental health in your classrooms.

One of the key ways you can support young people with their mental health is by referring them to expert or expert resources and by providing alternative mental health support for those who don’t wish to visit their GP for support.

Teachers and schools play a vital role in the support of mental health conditions in children, but they need more help to do it effectively. Our #Headucation campaign aims to train all UK teachers in the basics of mental health support which will allow them to comfortably provide children with the support they need.

All funds raised during #SockItToStigma will go straight into our #Headucation fund. Help us to provide as many fully-funded training sessions to schools as possible. Help us raise money by donating, buying a product from our store or signing up for one of our training courses.

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How to talk about mental health in classrooms

Our annual Sock it to Stigma! campaign seeks to raise awareness about the stigma associated with mental health and the damage that stigma can cause by getting schools to talk about it.

Mental health can often feel like a daunting topic to tackle with school children, but it’s integral that they learn about it now to reduce stigma in the future. Here are 4 ways to start a conversation about mental health and stigma in your classroom.

Mental health classroom activities

Our #SockItToStigma activity pack can be a fun starting point to open up opportunities to speak about mental health, breaking the stigma around this serious subject.

This pack includes:

  • Sock It To Stigma Fortune Teller – encourages children to take actions that can teach them about mental health and make them more mindful of others
  • Sock It To Stigma Happy Cube – helps children to think about things that make them happy when they feel low
  • Sock It To Stigma Word Search – teaches children important words related to mental health so they become familiar rather than scary or taboo
  • Sock It To Sigma Feeling Cards – children can create cards to more easily demonstrate and communicate how they are feeling without fear of judgement or misinterpretation

Our activity pack also includes fabulous creative exercises that you can share on social media to show that your school will #SockItToStigma and encourage open conversations about mental health.

Download our Activity Pack

Start a conversation about mental health

One of the simplest ways to make sure mental health is talked about in your classroom is to start the conversation yourself.

By starting conversations with children about mental health, you can help to increase their awareness, reduce stigma and fear of judgement, and increase the likelihood that they’ll seek treatment when needed sooner rather than later.

Some great icebreakers include:

“Tell me about a time when you were happy/sad/stressed…”

“How well do you feel on a scale of 1-10?”

Adults can often feel uncomfortable talking to children about mental health or fear saying something “wrong”, so here are our top tips for talking to children about mental health.

Mental Health Animations & Videos

What child doesn’t love watching videos at school? They can be a great tool to communicate basic mental health information to children before starting a conversation or mental health activity.

The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families has created some great video resources to help children learn about mental health, including:

Read about mental health

Books can be a great way to get children thinking and talking about mental health in a more comfortable classroom environment.

By using literature, the questions and conversations around mental health can be focused on the characters in the books – taking pressure off shy and nervous children who may not wish to discuss their own mental health with others in the classroom.

Mental health books can also help children to develop an understanding of feelings and mental health conditions that they have never experienced themselves, which in turn can improve their empathy and reduce stigma around mental health in the future.

Trigger Publishing have a wide range of children’s mental health books from fun illustrated short tales designed for primary school children to longer features better suited for older children.

Of course, teachers cannot do any of this without the proper training. Our #Headucation campaign aims to train all UK teachers in the basics of mental health support which will allow them to comfortably provide children with the support they need.

All funds raised during #SockItToStigma will go straight into our #Headucation fund. Right now, schools have to pay for mental health training themselves since it isn’t considered “mandatory” by the government – we want to provide as many fully-funded training sessions as possible.

Help us raise money by donating, buying a product from our store or signing up for one of our training courses.

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3 simple ways to fight mental health stigma

Our annual Sock it to Stigma campaign is back this month and seeks to raise awareness about the stigma associated with mental health and the damage that stigma can cause.

Stigma around mental health still prevents many people from seeking the help and support they need. We must all take personal responsibility to create the kind of culture which encourages people to speak up, which allows them to feel safe in doing so. – Peter Wingrove, Shawmind CEO

Here are 3 simple ways you can actively fight mental health stigma and make it easier for people to seek the help they need.

Talk about mental health

Stigma around mental health stems from it feeling like a taboo subject. Normalise mental health by talking openly and honestly about it whenever an opportunity presents itself.

There is no obligation to share anything you feel is too personal, but simply acknowledging that you (or someone you know) has struggled with mental health at times can help others who are struggling to feel supported.

You can also take charge and start conversations yourself to help others open up, gain valuable insight and show people that it’s ok to talk about mental health.

Not sure how to start a conversation? Try these:

I’ve felt really down lately, has anyone else felt like this? And if so, what helped you feel better?

I was reading an article about workplace health in the UK the other day, and presenteeism – i.e. people avoiding taking time off for mental health – can actually cost companies massive amounts in the long run! Would you ever take time off for your mental health?

Stigma can be present both internally and externally – mental health support groups can be a great way to combat both. Support groups can give you a space to talk away from the stigmas you may face in your normal environment and being around those in a similar situation can help you to question your own beliefs and stigmas that may be holding you back from getting more help.

Educate yourself and others

With a lack of knowledge and understanding comes misjudgement and fear, i.e. stigma. One of the most powerful ways you can help to fight mental health stigma is to educate yourself and others.

Speak up when someone stigmatises mental health – especially if they do it unknowingly. Have a conversation with them about why their stigma against mental health is harmful and how they can be more conscious in the future.

Ask questions when you don’t understand or want to learn more. Everyone has mental health, but everyone experiences it slightly differently. If someone has an experience with mental health that is different to yours or different to what you would expect, ask them about it and learn from each other to form a well-rounded and more inclusive knowledge of mental health.

Take mental health training. There are lots of mental health courses available from workplace CPD qualifications, to online knowledge fillers and even mental health first aid training. Formal mental health training like this can help you learn from experienced professionals and leave you feeling more confident when dealing with mental health and educating others.

All proceeds from the Shawmind mental health courses go to our #Headucation campaign to support children’s mental health and stop stigma early on.

Read about mental health – whether it’s guides, personal stories, or scientific papers – it all helps to build up your knowledge. Check out Trigger’s library of mental health books for ages and interests!

Re-evaluate how you perceive mental health

Every change starts with you. To fight mental health stigma, you first have to evaluate how you perceive mental health and if stigma is affecting your behaviour in any way.

Think about the language you use when talking about mental health? Is it mostly negative or positive? If you only ever negatively discuss mental health then you will be more likely to associate mental health with negativity and contribute to the stigma surrounding it. It’s important to remember that mental health can be positive and negative so you should talk about both aspects equally.

Next, you should evaluate how you treat mental health compared to physical health. Do you take time off for mental health in the same way you would with the flu? Do you tell yourself the same things when you have poor mental health as when you have poor physical health? E.g. people frequently tell themselves (and others) to “just get on with” and to “try to be more positive” when they’re struggling with mental health whereas if they had a physical health problem like a broken leg, they’d probably tell them to get help as soon as possible.

By approaching mental health with the same attitude as we do for physical health, we can reach a point where they are both discussed openly and honestly without fear of judgement and beat the stigma around mental health.

Stigma is one of the biggest factors that prevent people from seeking help and talking about their mental health. Our #SockItToStigma campaign aims to get workplaces talking about mental health in a safe, non-judgmental environment to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health. All funds raised during this campaign go straight to our #Headucation fund to support children with mental health and stop stigma before it can start.

Find out how your workplace or your school can get involved with #SockItToStigma 2022 or donate now to support children’s mental health and stop stigma in its tracks.

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Your guide to time off work for mental health

Mental health challenges can feel debilitating and they don’t stop when you enter your workplace (or switch on your laptop) but it can feel like you need to push those aside when you go to work so that you can be productive and earn enough money to live your life.

We know it’s not that simple. Mental health challenges can manifest themselves in many ways including missing deadlines, lacking enthusiasm and having more emotional responses to problems that arise – all of which can lead to problems for you, your team and your employer.

Sometimes, it may seem like the best solution is to take time off to deal with your mental health – but the stigma around mental health as a whole has probably made it hard for you to find the information you need about time off work for mental health.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Can I take time off work for mental health?

Yes. As with physical health problems, you are legally entitled to time off when struggling with mental health. Similarly to physical health problems, you will need to get a doctor’s note if you are off for longer than 1 week due to mental health.

When should I take time off work for mental health?

You should take time off work for mental health if you are experiencing any symptoms of a mental health condition (e.g. anxiety, depression, stress) that will negatively affect your performance at work.

Alternatively, you should take time off work for mental health if you believe that attending work will have a significant and detrimental impact on your long-term mental health.

In some cases, you may only need a single day to allow yourself to rest and recover, or in more severe cases you may need an extended period of leave.

How to talk to employers about mental health

There is no legal requirement for you to disclose any mental health conditions with your employer, however, you may find that sharing your circumstances with your employer (or HR department) enables them to support you better and make adjustments to the work environment.

The stigma around mental health keeps many employees from opening up to employers for fear of dismissal, discrimination, or fewer career opportunities. However, mental health conditions can be classed as a disability and are therefore protected from workplace discrimination by The Equality Act (2010).

How to call in sick with mental health

Due to the stigma that still exists around mental health, many people try to ignore symptoms of poor mental health and carry on working anyway. But would you go to work if you were throwing up? Hopefully not.

The same goes for your mental health – while keeping busy can be helpful at times, your mental health needs rest so it can heal just like your physical health does.

If you need a single day or two to rest, you can simply send a message or make a call as you would with a physical sick day. If you don’t want to disclose the specific issue you’re struggling with, you can send a broad message to your employer to inform them that you’ll be off:

Hi [Employer],

I need to take today off for my mental health. Hopefully, then I can be back at 100% for tomorrow!

Many Thanks,

[Your Name]

If you need more than a week off, you will need a written note from a doctor detailing what condition you are taking time off for and how long it will be until you return. This will need to be sent to your HR department but it would also be advisable to inform your line manager and team members about the duration of your leave.

Can I be fired for taking time off for mental health?

Providing you follow the proper protocols for sick leave within your organisation, provide proof of illness for extended leave, and work with your employer to remain productive within any accommodations made for your mental health, you cannot be fairly dismissed from your role.

Employers may fire you if:

  • You have violated the terms of your employment contract by not following the agreed sick leave procedures
  • You have not provided proof of your mental illness for extended periods of leave
  • You have not successfully worked with any considerations your employer has taken to support your mental health (such as flexible working hours, or remote working)

If you have followed all the requirements and your employer still fires you, you may be able to claim it was an unfair dismissal under the Equality Act (2010), leaving your employer facing hefty fines and lengthy legal procedures.

In reality, most employers are understanding and accommodating to your mental health needs as long as you are open and honest about what you need. Most issues tend to arise when performance and productivity decrease for no clear reason and with no identifiable solution. Avoid this situation by discussing your mental health and any additional requirements with your employer, HR department, or Mental Health First Aider.

Mental health is a vast and complex subject, both employers and employees can benefit from mental health training that will enable them to spot the signs of common mental health conditions, look after mental health, and support those with mental health challenges.

All proceeds from our workplace mental health courses go towards our #Headucation campaign designed to improve mental health support for children. Help yourself, your business, and future generations by registering for our online or tutor-led mental health courses.

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Looking after mental health when working from home – 5 tips anyone can use

In a perfect world, working from home would give us endless opportunities to look after our mental health. But we know that the world isn’t perfect and that not everyone can work flexible hours to suit their ideal schedule and that not everyone feels confident speaking to their employer about mental health.

Over the last 2 years, there has been plenty of advice shared about how to look after your mental health when working from home, but how much have you really been able to implement? We’ve collated the best techniques that anyone can implement, no matter what resources you have or what industry you work in.

1. Set a routine when working from home

Setting a routine for your workday can help you to practice good habits and establish boundaries between work and home life.

For some, your routine may incorporate scheduled exercise, daily walks and time to complete errands around the house alongside your work. For others, it can be as simple has having a clearly defined time to start work and time to finish.

The key to any good WFH routine for your mental health is that it works for you and is something you can stick to long term. If you’re unsure, start with routine that includes minimal tasks and build on it as you get more used to it.

A routine like this can really help your mental health when working from home as it will help you create clear boundaries for yourself, your employer, and members of your household to have set times when work or personal tasks can be completed – leaving you free to fully switch off from work in the evenings and to minimise home distractions during the day.

Struggling to finish on time when working from home? Ask yourself “would I stay to complete this task if I was working in the office?” If not, it’s time to switch off!

Need help getting your routine started? Save ours to your phone!

WFH Routine

2. Spend time outdoors

Whether it’s 5 minutes or 1 hour, time outdoors can significantly benefit your mental health when working from home. Not only can this time outside give us a much-needed break from our work (and the screen you’ve likely been staring at for hours), being outside also triggers several physical responses in our body that are great for our mental health. For example:

  • Green outdoor spaces can improve focus and memory
  • Natural light regulates our circadian rhythm and contributes to better sleep
  • Natural light also stimulates serotonin and Vitamin D – both of which make us feel happier
  • Being outdoors can lower cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure

Much of the time you spend outside will likely be on foot – meaning that you’ll be getting some physical activity in which is also great for mental health.

There are lots of different ways you can spend time outdoors, whether it’s in your garden, on your balcony or in the street outside your home:

  • Go for a walk during your lunch break
  • Simulate your commute by walking before and/or after work every day (also a great way to set clear boundaries in your mind!)
  • Take a 5 minute break outside in between tasks
  • Go outside every time the kettle is boiling

3. Create a dedicated workspace

To look after your mental health when working from home, you need the ability to switch off from work and stop the lines between your work and personal time getting too blurred.

A dedicated workspace for working from home is one of the best things you can do to create clear boundaries for your mind and look after your mental health. Not everyone has the ability to set up an office in another room – but that doesn’t mean you can’t still create a dedicated space where you can focus during the day and “leave” when it’s time to finish.

Try to avoid working from the sofa or your bed – these are spaces where you’d normally relax so reserve them for this purpose only! If you have to work from a room that you’d usually consider a relaxing space, try to set up a desk that is only for work purposes. You could even use a folding table and chair if you don’t have room for a permanent set up.

If you work from your kitchen table or another permanent fixture in your house, make the effort to clear your work equipment away at the end of every day. This will help you avoid the temptation to check your emails or do a quick task out of your normal working hours.

If you’re lucky enough to have a home office, try closing the door when you finished working so that, similarly to those working from kitchen tables, you can’t be tempted to work when you catch a glimpse of your to-do list or computer.

4. Talk to people

Talking is one of the best things you can do for your mental health, even when you’re not working from home.

Regardless of the subject, talking to people helps us feel connected, build relationships and voice our feelings. Working from home can often leave you feeling isolated and lonely which can intensify feelings of anxiety, depression, and low mood.

Talk to colleagues

Even when working remotely, make the effort to talk to your colleagues via voice or video call. You can talk to them about work and personal life – they may even be able to support you with challenges you’re facing if they’re in a similar position.

Read more: What is workplace anxiety?

Talk to your Mental Health First Aider

Your workplace Mental Health First Aider is the best person to go to when you’re feeling low at work. They can provide advice, signpost to professional resources and help you make adjustments at work to accommodate how you’re feeling.

Don’t have a mental health first aider? Get trained in Mental Health First Aid.

Talk to loved ones

Talking to loved ones after work on a regular basis is a great way to unwind and gain perspective. They’ll likely be supportive if you want to share anything that’s bothering you and can help to distract you with stories from their own lives.

5. Stay healthy and hydrated

Keeping your body fed and hydrated will help you stay focused, motivated and mentally positive when working from home. Keep a water bottle at your desk so that you can keep drinking even when engrossed in the busiest tasks and try to keep healthy snacks on hand (e.g. fruit and nuts) for when you don’t feel like you have time for a proper lunch.

If you regularly don’t have the time or inclination to prepare meals during the day, meal prepping in advance can be a great way to ensure you get a balanced and filling meal without spending too long away from your desk.

Working from home has become normal for many of us, yet despite this there are plenty of us who still struggle to look after our mental health in these conditions. You can use these tips when working from home no matter your resources or work schedule.

Want to learn more about mental health to support yourself or others? Check out our online mental health courses – all proceeds go to #Headucation to provide mental health training to teachers!

Read more: 9 realistic ways to cope with workplace anxiety

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