Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992 to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.
The past months have brought many additional challenges to our already stressful lives: prolonged working from home, going to work with the worry of catching the virus, adapting to schooling children from home with little contact from teachers and friends; and for people with mental health conditions, many experiencing even greater social isolation than before. Recent research identified that 65% of people in the UK have felt more stressed since the COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020. The three key causes for concern are feelings of disconnection, uncertainty, and a worrying loss of control.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Almost one in five adults (19.2%) were likely to be experiencing some form of depression during the coronavirus pandemic in June 2020; this had almost doubled from around 1 in 10 (9.7%) before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020).
Why is it so important to recognise stress?
Millions of us around the UK are experiencing high levels of stress and it is damaging our health. Stress is one of the great public health challenges of our time, but it still isn’t being taken as seriously as physical health concerns.
Stress is a significant factor in mental health problems including anxiety and depression. It is also linked to physical health problems like heart disease, problems with our immune system, insomnia and digestive problems. Individually, we need to understand what is causing us personal stress and learn what steps we can take to reduce it for ourselves and those around us.
Wellbeing at the core
JCA values the health and wellbeing of all our employees and recognises that balancing everyday life together with the requirements of work and home can create pressure for everyone. We aim to establish a positive health and wellbeing culture that includes awareness, understanding, effective processes and positive behaviour by employees at all levels. We fully recognise that mental and physical health and wellbeing are equally important and that work can have a potential impact on both.
Trained to help
We take a “we’re in this together” approach – everyone has their part to play in ensuring that support can be accessed as needed, with dedicated support roles available. We have mental aid first aiders who are trained in mental health awareness and can support mental ill health and offer sign posted support. A number of our senior managers and line managers have also attended ‘Line Manager Mental Health Awareness Training’ run by Mind. This training aims to provide line managers with a better understanding of the impact of stress and mental health difficulties and the confidence to manage mental health in the workplace, which promotes wellbeing and understanding across the teams and reduces perceived stigma when discussing mental health issues.
Talking about mental health at work can be daunting: people may worry about how they will be treated and how their colleagues will react. We therefore invited JCA employees across the business to volunteer to become Health and Wellbeing Champions. Our Champions help implement and support JCA’s wellbeing and mental health programme through raising awareness of wellbeing, promoting healthy lifestyles and positive mental health. Every Champion attended an internationally recognised training course ‘Mental Health Champions’, accredited by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA).
The ongoing pandemic and working from home mean that our staff are often unable to see and talk to colleagues that they would normally catch up with in our offices. To provide them with an opportunity to talk to people across the business, we have organised weekly #HaveaTeaBreak video meetings open to anyone to drop in and have a chat with their colleagues about anything but work.
We have also launched an internal virtual JCA Running Club, a community of JCA employees to support and motivate each other to engage in outdoor physical exercise, be it running, walking or cycling.
As part of our commitment to health and wellbeing of our staff, we have implemented an Employee Assistance Programme, delivered by an independent external organisation, which provides confidential support and guidance relating to personal issues via telephone and online advice, support and counselling services. The services include help with home and work life, physical and emotional health, wellbeing resources, self-help programmes, webinars and other.
Stress Awareness Month at JCA
Internally, over the month of April we will be sharing with our staff all the ways that can help reduce stress from physical exercise and getting a good night sleep to organising workload to mindfulness. We have also arranged for special packs containing Mind UK’s practical tips and other helpful information on how to manage stress at work to be posted to every employee.
To find out more about Stress Awareness Month, visit stress.org.uk