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As you will know by now, this week is Mental Health Awareness week with its ‘kindness’ theme.
No better time to remind people of the link between mental health and its link to problematic substance use – such as drinking too much to cope with the current situation.
Two weeks ago we set up a freephone helpline, making our contribution to CV19, namely giving people struggling with unhelpful or harmful addictive behaviours the chance to speak to someone for support or advice.
How many of the calls do you think were from employees as opposed to unemployed?
Over 50% – and that is fairly representative of the people who access our main support services all of the time. It’s estimated 70% of people using substances problematically are in full-time employment and that up to 10% of an annual payroll spend can be attributed to substance use related spend (eg HR meetings and re-recruitment)?
It’s highly likely people in your team will be struggling right now. Some of those people will be using drugs and alcohol to cope with the anxiety or stress they are quite rightly feeling. It’s also highly likely you may not ever get to know about it. Shame and stigma surrounding substance use is huge. People are embarrassed and quite clever at masking or hiding these destructive behaviours until it is sometimes too late. It’s even easier at the moment when no one can smell your breath and you don’t need to meet your colleagues face-to-face the day after a late night.
So let this week be a prompt for kindness when it comes to thinking about drug/alcohol addicts and let’s keep disrupting stereotypical images of those with substance-related problems – it doesn’t help. They may be the person supporting you at the doctors, the person that teaches your child or the colleague who just brought you a cup of tea.
Think about what you can do to #bekind. It may be something as simple as challenging your own thoughts.
But if you are in a position of influence at work – look at your welfare policies, do they stand up to scrutiny or are they tokenistic when it comes to creating a culture that encourages staff with a problem (that they think may lose them their job) to tell you about it and ask for help? Are you well placed to offer help that will mean you can retain them as well as help them live their best lives?