It's mental health awareness week this week. The theme of the week is relationships. There's been research showing the importance of social relationships for our health overall. People with fewer social relationships had more ill-health and died younger. Also, the importance of at least one close confiding relationship on better wellbeing has been well established.
In a recent survey of psychological professions conducted by the BPS and New Savoy Conference showed that most of the respondents agreed that they had good relationships outside work. However, they still reported high levels of stress and workload pressures. They also reported feelings of failure and depression.
While the findings may not be wholly representative of the psychological professions workforce, they present an interesting conundrum. Despite good self-reported support, participants were still stressed at work. Does this suggest something about work relationships that we should also pay attention to?
Many of us no longer have a base and will regular hot desk. Also, many in the IAPT workforce work in community settings with limited contact with colleagues with whom they can share their work experiences. What this has done has been to increase the potential isolation such ways of working can bring. I have heard of good examples of people being encouraged and, perhaps more importantly, given the time to maintain good working relationships. I have also heard about people not taking breaks because they haven't achieved their targets or completed their administrative tasks. So how do we address this - it's known productive work isn't about constant uninterrupted work? Also, I expect most of us have had the experience of a short break improving our performance. I'm sure some of us have felt tired after working intensively with someone who came to see us and we then needed to recharge ourselves.
So the challenge for us is how do we make good work happen consistently? Working with colleagues and modelling good behaviour can help. Convincing senior staff is essential and a collective voice can help. As part of the survey work, a charter for wellbeing for psychological professions was launched at the New Savoy conference. Signing up to the charter can promote that collective action. A learning collaborative is being developed to share good practice too.
I've been privileged to be a part of the project team undertaking the survey and charter and collaborative development. These external relationships contribute to my work both internally in the Trust and externally with Positive Practice in Mental Health. They also contribute to feeling valued and feeling like I can make a difference.
So back to relationships - we can achieve so much with good relationships across our lives - home and work. This can have a positive effect on our mental health.