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10 October marks World Mental Health Day and the theme of this year’s awareness day is workplace wellbeing. To mark the day, we are reflecting on the sources of support available within the University to help you look after you mental health.

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Just like physical health, our mental health can fluctuate within a spectrum; 1 in 4 of us will experience a period of mental ill-health within our lives. The University has a number of different schemes in place to help those experiencing mental health problems, as well as guidance for those who are managing staff or students with a mental illness.

Maeve Waite is the Research Operations Assistant for the Centre of Advancement of Sustainable Medicine Innovation (CASMI), and she has just completed an MSc in Occupational Psychology at Birkbeck, London. There, she looks at issues including workplace wellbeing and volunteers with Mind to develop workshops for companies in Oxfordshire. Discussing some of the challenges around mental health in the workplace, she said:

‘Everybody has mental health – just like physical health. We too often focus on the negative sides of mental health, and equate mental health to mental illness, but mental health is a positive thing that we need to look after.’

Maintaining a work-life balance is one way we can go about looking after our mental health. RDM understands that our staff are our greatest asset and getting the right balance between work and your life outside work is very important. Read more about work-life balance within RDM, including our family-friendly benefits and tips on the prevention and management of stress.

Stress is one facet of mental health, and one that is frequently discussed in terms of workplace wellbeing. The University has compiled a ‘Five-a-day stress prevention’ plan, including five different types of behaviour that research has shown can reduce stress. These include: staying active, connecting with those around you, taking notice, learning and volunteering. Please visit Personnel Service’s Work-Related Stress portal to find some of the internal resources available to everyone at the University. Oxford Learning Institute also organise a series of seminars for Mental Health and Wellbeing including Assertiveness, Time management and Feedback conversations. 

For those managing someone with mental ill-health, there are resources and guidelines available within the University, including tips about how to talk about mental health concerns. For Maeve, being able to talk about mental health your manager, and for managers to speak to their employees, is critical. ‘Keeping an open dialogue with your manager and employees is so important for managing workplace wellbeing. It is important that those with mental health problems feel able to discuss their experiences free from stigma and judgement, and that employers understand more about what having a mental health problem is like. Stigma is still a big issue surrounding mental health – from subtle language to more blatant discrimination – but if can all work towards being more open about times when we are experiencing difficulties, hopefully we can overcome this.’

For those dealing with work-attributable health issues impacting on your performance and wellbeing at work, there is a confidential counselling service for staff. This service is available as part of Occupational Health Service’s case management service and is accessed via a referral to Occupational Health Services.