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How do we separate 'mental health' and 'mental illness'?

October 10th is the date set by the World Health Organisation to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and combat the stigma that surrounds it.


To mark the day, we are discussing how these issues affect people working in general practice, how you can identify and manage mental ill health among your staff, and the differences between mental health and mental illness.

 

Taking action on mental health in primary care 

All of us have to monitor and take care of our mental health - our psychological and emotional well-being. It’s important to stay aware of how we feel, because when we start to feel overwhelmed it’s time to act. Sometimes the answer is to simply give yourself a break, but it’s important to have coping mechanisms that can help you calm down when it all feels too much.

We can define mental illness as a diagnosable condition, covering a range of conditions including stress, depression, schizophrenia, some addictions and eating disorders many of which (but not all) meet the legal definition of a disability.

 

 Being open about mental health - and why it matters

Because of the stigma that is still attached to mental ill health, people suffering from conditions like stress, depression and anxiety can be reluctant to disclose their issues to managers, covering up their problems by blaming sickness absence on physical symptoms.

Encouraging staff to be open with you and cultivating an atmosphere where people feel that topics surrounding mental health are not taboo can help you work towards finding positive solutions. Employers are obliged to put in place reasonable adjustments and prevent discrimination for people with disabilities under the Equality Act 2010.

 

The benefits of having a support system in your GP practice

It is not just for legal reasons that employers should be thinking about the mental well-being of their employees; productivity, quality of work and retention can all benefit from investing in this area.

Stress can affect important relationships within a practice, be a contributor to ill physical health and even affect memory. That makes it vital for employers to understand how beneficial wellbeing and taking holidays can be to the workplace, particularly when research indicates that employees in good health are up to 20% more productive than those in poor health.

Employee wellbeing is a worthwhile investment; it’s likely to lead to a reduction in employee absence and an increase in employee morale, satisfaction and productivity. Indirect benefits can include a reduction in management time being used to manage sickness absence, disciplinary procedures and investigations, as well as better retention of staff and an improved reputation for supporting your people - which may lead to improved opportunities while recruiting.

Want some more tips on practicing mindfulness? First Practice Management members can download our Mindfulness Toolkit from the FPM Toolkit section of our Members’ Area. It explains the benefits of mindfulness and includes some great techniques to try out!

 


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