The topic of mental illness is becoming more widespread particularly with current statistics indicating that approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Nevermore so has the topic of mental health been prevalent in the current climate that we are experiencing on a national and global level. Our clinical team have been working tirelessly to communicate and support our valued workforce alongside the HR team with employee’s concerns and issues experienced with mental health, loneliness, isolation and just coping in general.

So what actually is a mental illness and how do we know whether we have a mental illness or indeed an emotional problem. It is hard to narrow a mental illness to one particular category as there are more than 200 classified forms. We may have heard of some of the more common disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety but how do we recognise the signs that we need help and who do we go to. Problems may start when individuals are exposed to excessive stress due to a particular situation or series of events, a reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors or biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these.

We may think that we are fine but if we start to experience sudden changes in thoughts, behaviours and mood which includes one or more of the following, then help should be sought. Symptoms of a mental illness can include confused thinking, prolonged depression (feeling sadness), feelings of extreme highs and lows, excessive fears and worries, social withdrawal, dramatic changes in eating habits, sleep issues, strong feelings of anger, seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse.

If you experience any of these symptoms it is important to seek help and support. This can be from a friends and family support network, but if this is not possible and you don’t have anybody to ask, please speak to the HR team at Care 4 Children so we can direct you confidentially to the right place or to local self help groups. Just to remind staff that at Care 4 Children we have invested in the Employee Assistance Programme which provides 24 hour confidential counselling, 6 free face-to-face sessions per employee and referrals. Their website also contains a free online health portal that offers lots of techniques to improve health and wellbeing. This is a free benefit for our staff and their family members that reside at their home address. For more intense support we can offer Occupational Health whereby reasonable adjustments can be made to support you through a difficult time.

Furthermore, following my attendance at a recent conference, it actually highlighted the seriousness of mental illness, and in particular noting that one of the highest occupational risks for suicide is those working within the care sector.

Please don’t suffer in silence at this very difficult time, speak to somebody that you trust; your line manager, clinical team or the HR team can help and signpost you to get help. Please remember that it’s good to talk and people are here to help you.

Below is a list of some of the support networks that you can access.

Care 4 Children Simply Health 24 hour counselling support, Tel: 0800 975 3347

Anxiety U.K. – Tel: 03444 775 774 (Mon-Fri 9.30 am – 5.30 pm)

Bipolar U.K. website: www.bipolaruk.org.uk

CALM – Campaign Against Living Miserably Website: www.thecalmzone.net

Depression Alliance – Website: www.depressionalliance.org

Mencap Learning Disabilities – Tel: 0808 808 1111

Men’s Health Foundation – Website: www.menshealthforum.org.uk

Mental Health Foundation – Website: www.mentalhealth.org.uk

Mind – Tel: 0300 123 3393 Website: www.mind.org.uk

No Panic (sufferers of panic attacks) – Tel: 0844 967 4848

OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) – Tel: 0845 390 6232

Rape Crisis – Tel: 0808 802 9999 Relate (relationship support) – Website: www.relate.org.uk  

Samaritans – Tel: 116 123 (free 24 hour helpline) Victim support – Tel: 0808 168 9111, Website: www.samaritans.org