NTU Alumni James Thornton discusses a time when his employee needed support and what they did to open up discussion about mental health in the workplace.
It is now the final term of this academic year and many of you will be thinking about embarking on your first job in your new career. Something that we haven’t yet covered on the Healthy NTU blog is mental health in the workplace and the stigma around talking openly about struggling at work.
Awareness of mental health issues in the work place are improving, but there is still a long way to go.
I run a business which employs 25 people. We have grown in a measured way over recent years and have been able to recruit through personal contact and referrals. I regard us as a close team operating in an environment where wellbeing is a subject we take seriously.
Last Autumn, I wasn’t prepared for what happened when conducting the year end appraisal of a key employee who has worked at the company for approaching 10 years and had an excellent year. I thought this was set to be straightforward appraisal and an opportunity to congratulate on what had been a strong year. Instead of a convivial atmosphere however, I was greeted with one of apprehension and emotion, this was a senior colleague unable to speak and with tears running down his cheeks. It was the first time I had encountered such a situation and through discussion it was evident that he was suffering from stress and anxiety. We immediately took advice and gave him time off and ensured that he received excellent help from a specialist in mental health.
I am pleased to say that this episode was short lived and as an employer we are much more aware of such issues – how to identify stress and anxiety problems and how to respond to them.
We also arranged for a representative of a mental health charity, the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, to come in and to present to all our employees on this subject so that everybody’s awareness of it increased.
As a student at Nottingham Trent in the 1970’s, I am pleased to say that I never needed help but I have learnt through my children and their friends attending university today that mental health in students is widely recognised as a growing issue. It is an illness that can be treated but recognising the signs can be difficult to identify and often are deliberately hidden for fear of embarrassment or being perceived as weak.
As you graduate and enter the workplace, you will encounter new challenges and, for some, there will be apprehension and nervousness over starting a job. Will I be able to do the job, will I like my new colleagues, will I perform in line with expectations?
My advice would be to be as open as possible in all relationships and share concerns and fears with your line manager. Starting a job may also involve moving out of home and setting up on your own or with friends. This will be different to the student co-living experience and involves a step up in responsibility.
Most importantly ask for help if you need it, avoid storing up concerns and worries. A problem shared is a problem halved and most employers will be sympathetic. No company wants to employ people who aren’t working to their full potential and will nurture wherever possible to ensure wellbeing and personal and career development.
Many employers offer private health cover which cover consultations with mental health experts. Help will be on hand even if you don’t feel able to share your issues with your employer.
Mental Health Awareness Week runs from 13th- 19th May and I would implore you to read more about this, listen and act if your fellow students or colleagues need help. You might save someone’s life.
For help and advice whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.
Support from NTU
Silvercloud: SilverCloud is our online system designed to help with a range of mental health issues.
Wellness in Mind: Advice and support for anyone in Nottingham experiencing issues with their mental wellbeing
Struggling at Uni?
10 Keys to happiness
This post is part of our regular NTU Alumni feature. Over the next few weeks we will be posting guest blogs written by our Alumni Fellows sharing their experiences and tips on their student journey while here at NTU.
If you are an NTU graduate and are interested in writing for us contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find more information about our Alumni Fellowship volunteering programme via the alumni website