The positive impact of mentoring on mental health
1 in 4 people in the UK will experience mental health issues at some stage in their life. And in recent years, combatting the mental health crisis in the workplace has become increasingly important for business leaders. According to the World Health Organisation, negative work environments can lead to mental health issues for employees. So how can business owners and HR professionals seek to create more positive work environments and support their employees through mental health challenges?
Mind, the mental health charity, recommends a range of workplace adjustments when supporting those with mental health problems. These adjustments include flexible working hours, reallocation of some tasks or duties, and unsurprisingly, implementing a mentor or ‘buddy’ system. Many organisations have seen huge impact on employee health and wellbeing by implementing mentoring programmes, a benefit we wholeheartedly support here at Grasp. Aside from the obvious benefits of mentoring, such as career progression and on-the-job support, mentors provide mentees with a reliable and supportive trustee.
So, how else does mentoring support mental health?
- A shift in perspectives
A well known benefit of mentoring is career progression. Mentors can support mentees develop the skills they need to advance in their career, whilst also helping them make a clear plan of action for how to get there. But how does this impact mental health?
Structure and routine bring with them a whole host of mental health benefits. In fact, researchers have found that routine can have far-reaching psychological benefits, including alleviating bipolar disorder, ADHD, and insomnia. By helping mentees focus on the long-term goal, it can implement routine and structure to their current day, and in turn relieve some of the side effects of mental health challenges.
- Reduces isolation
Loneliness is often connected to mental health problems. And although it isn’t a mental health condition in itself, loneliness and the feeling of being isolated is often felt by those suffering with mental health problems. As such, helping to overcome loneliness and isolation is a sure-fire way to improve the mental health of employees.
Setting up peer support and mentoring programmes for staff with lived experience of mental health problems, is a great way to overcome this isolation. Mentoring provides mentees with a significant companion (or multiple companions, if you implement group mentoring) in the workplace, who can give trusted, reliable advice to mentees – and support them through any work challenges they may face.
- Reduces workplace stress
Workplace stress affects 79% of the UK workforce, which amounted to 12.8 million sick days in 2018-19. This stress, or anxiety, related to work is a huge problem for many employees, but it can often be overcome with mentoring programmes.
In fact, mentoring is said to reduce stress for both the mentors and mentees. Mentoring provides an opportunity for mentors to impart their knowledge and guidance to the mentee – impacting the greater good of the business and as such reducing their workplace stress. Whereas mentoring provides mentees with a reliable sounding board for workplace woes, and thus similarly relieves their workplace stress.
So, how can you offer mental health support to colleagues, peers and mentees?
Although we know that mentoring can alleviate mental health issues; it is sometimes a taboo subject to tackle. With many not knowing how to best provide support and guidance to those suffering with mental health issues. But simply checking in with your colleagues, peers or mentees can sometimes go a long way. So here’s our 6 step checklist on how you can check in with others.
☑ Give them your undivided attention. Oftentimes mental health issues come with a feeling of being a burden. And it takes a lot for people to open up about their struggles. So the worst thing you can do when somebody does open up to you, is become distracted and turn your attention elsewhere.
☑ Ask open ended questions and do not probe too much into their responses. It’s very important that the person suffering with mental health issues shares as much, or as little, as they’re comfortable with about their struggles.
☑ Practice active listening to ensure you’ve truly understood what you’re being told. In these situations, it’s often a good idea to repeat what they have said back to them, to ensure you’ve thoroughly understood.
☑ Leave your personal emotions at the door. Sometimes you will not agree with what your colleague, peer or mentee is saying. But if they’ve chosen to open up to you – it’s best not to challenge them on what they’re saying. Instead, provide a supportive ear and give the best advice and guidance you can.
☑ Know your limits. It’s very unlikely that you are a mental health practitioner, and as such, you must know your own limits. If the mental health problem at hand is too large or serious for you to deal with – provide help to the person by helping them seek the relevant professional help.
It’s very important to protect your own mental health in these circumstances. If you feel that listening to someone else’s struggles is impacting your mental health, please do reach out to someone who can help you and your mentee.
☑ Ask “how are you?” twice. This is a campaign from Time to Change, that we wholeheartedly support here at Grasp. If you believe a friend, colleague, peer or mentee is ‘bottling something up’ and needs to talk, you can open the door to the conversation by asking “how are you” – twice. All too often, we automatically respond to “how are you?” with “I’m fine” or “I’m good, how are you?” without honestly answering the question. By asking a second time, you give the person you’re talking to the opportunity to alter their answer; and answer honestly.
Aside from mental health support, mentoring is a great way to increase employee morale and boost company culture. But your programme must be future-fit. Learn more about how you can ensure your mentoring programme is ready for the future, here.