Have you ever had a work day when stress got the better of you? When you weren’t feeling quite yourself? A new national campaign called Not Myself Today aims to raise awareness of mental health issues in the workplace by encouraging people to pay more attention to their own mental health and well-being. Other goals of the campaign are to positively change attitudes and behaviours towards those living with mental health difficulties or illnesses, and to influence positive changes in policies around mental health in the workplace.
The U of M is taking part in Not Myself Today @Work day, an event that takes place on June 6 and is part of an initiative by Partners for Mental Health, a national organization dedicated to transforming how Canadians think about and support mental health. Launched on May 9, the campaign aims to provide resources for the support of mentally healthy workplaces, and culminates in a special day when workplaces across Canada come together to hold special events to raise awareness about mental health in the workplace.
Over 1,100 mood badges, 500 stickers and other promotional items were distributed to faculty and staff at the Campus Beautification Day barbeque. Workplace wellness tips for ideas about improving mental health at work are being shared on a daily basis on U of M social media sites.
The website of Partners for Mental Health notes some disturbing statistics that should make us understand mental health in the workplace as a significant issue. Over the next 12 months, 7 million Canadians will experience a mental health problem. One in three workplace disability claims are related to mental illness, and each day, 500,000 people are absent from work due to mental health reasons.
Because of this, the U of M has partnered with Partners for Mental Health for Not Myself Today @Work day as part of a larger commitment it has recently made to addressing issues of mental health in its student and employee populations. Over the next year, consultant Stephanie Loewen will work with staff, faculty and students as well as with officials and colleagues at the university in order to create a mental health strategy that will support mental health initiatives for students and in the workplace at the U of M.
Loewen notes that the university is already well on its way to creating that strategy. She says, “The U of M places emphasis on the importance of employee wellness through the Outstanding Workplace Initiative. In addition, the U of M is currently developing a mental health strategy that will seek to enhance the well-being of all students, faculty and staff as well as to increase support to employees with mental health issues.”
Loewen has been consulting with faculty and staff and students since April. In early June, faculty and staff will have another opportunity to inform the strategy process. All employees will receive a request via email to fill out an anonymous survey about student mental health. The survey aims to get a better understanding of the nature and extent of the impact of student mental health issues on employees at the university. Stephanie hopes that many people will take the opportunity to share their experiences with students in order to reveal areas for improvement and where more support is needed for employees.
Loewen says that over the next two weeks, employees are encouraged to wear their mood badge in support of mental health and wellness in the workplace, and in solidarity with our coworkers, staff and students living with mental health issues.
The U of M’s mental health website page states that, “We are committed to attracting and retaining the very best staff and faculty members. To do that we strive to create a psychologically safe workplace; one that promotes the mental health and well-being of the workforce. The U of M is committed to assisting and supporting staff and faculty with mental health issues, be it their own, that of their families or their students.”
The university wants to hear from you! You can submit your anonymous feedback about mental health and wellness at the U of M to help inform the mental health strategy. To see more, click here.
For more information about this movement to improve workplace mental health click here.
For more information about employee wellness on campus, click here.
Workplace wellness tips are being shared on a daily basis on U of M social media sites for ideas about improving mental health at work. Some of the tips shared are as follows.
• Take short relaxation breaks. Take a few quiet minutes to try things that relax you, such as taking several deep breaths, closing your eyes, or thinking about a much-loved vacation spot or a person you love.
• Recognize that feeling stress at work isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of the times – so take your mental wellness seriously and take your breaks!
• Watch what you eat. Go for foods that give you real energy such as fresh fruit and veggies, string cheese, and whole grains to get you through the late afternoon slump.
• Remember to stay hydrated. Adequate hydration (half your body weight in ounces of water per day) will decrease cravings and increase mental alertness!
• Manage your time. Prioritize tasks, write them down and enjoy the endorphin rush you get as you cross them off when they’re done. Don’t forget to reward yourself!
• Take time to listen to your body. Don’t ignore the rumbling of your tummy, your stiff neck, your shallow breaths, or the call of Mother Nature!
• Remind yourself to stand up and stretch at regular intervals by writing “STRETCH” on a Post-it note and sticking it on your computer monitor frame or putting it in your online calendar as a recurring reminder.
• Laughter is the best medicine: it reduces the level of stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins (a.k.a. happy hormones)! Have something in your workplace that automatically makes you smile, like a funny picture or a goofy toy.
• De-clutter your work area and organize your workspace to reduce stress and make things easier to find.
• Feel stressed or angry? Go for a walk! You can work off the extra adrenaline you have and return to your desk feeling more relaxed. Feel sleepy? Go for a walk! Exercise has been proven to boost energy levels.