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Talking about mental health at work

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Everyone gets overwhelmed be it at work, or at home but we shouldn’t feel like we can’t talk about it. Barbara Harvey, Accenture’s mental health executive sponsor gives her tips on how to spot the personal signs of stress and feeling mentally unwell.

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Here are Barbara Harvey’s tips around helping yourself mentally to eventually create an open and honest company culture:

  1. Know how to spot signs of too much stress in yourself. The way you respond is likely to be different from anyone else; for me a warning sign is feeling constantly in a rush.
  2. Think about what else is going on in your life. There are times when you’re free (and excited) to focus on work or take on a big challenge and other times when you need to focus mostly on something that’s going on at home or with your health – talk to your team and line manager about this so they can help you make the right choice in your career for where you are right now; always put your health before anything else (promotion can wait; your health won’t).
  3. Find out what help is available. If you are feeling mentally unwell, familiarise yourself with the services and people that are available to help. Many workplaces now have counselling services or similar support networks, but also remember that you can speak to you your GP, family, and friends.
  4. Explore the services that work for you personally. At Accenture, we’ve put in place a holistic health and wellbeing programme that incorporates both physical and mental health and emphasises awareness and prevention. It includes a free confidential counselling service available 24/7, direct access to accredited counsellors, and a professionally-monitored, anonymous online community called the “Big White Wall” forum. We have heard from our employees that speaking out is a really important step to getting the necessary help. If you don’t feel like you are ready to speak to a counsellor, I would point people towards anonymous services so that you can communicate freely about the challenges you face and learn from the experiences of others.
  5. Try to take action as early as you can and never be afraid to talk to someone. If you feel like you might be suffering from stress or poor mental health don’t wait until it is too late to act because often that can lead to feeling entirely overwhelmed. Think about your mental health in the same way you think about physical health. If you think something isn’t quite right, take steps to address it as quickly as possible.

By Barbara Harvey, Managing Director in Accenture’s research team and an executive sponsor for its Mental Health Allies programme.

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