10 – 16 May 2021 is Mental Health Awareness Week, during what continues to be a challenging time for everyone and as COVID-19 restrictions are tentatively relaxed across the UK. Raising awareness about the importance of mental health and taking some time to think and talk about mental health issues has never been more important.
What is Mental Health Awareness Week?
Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event which gives the whole of the UK an opportunity to focus on achieving good mental health.
The Mental Health Foundation started the event 21 years ago, and today it is one of the biggest awareness weeks both nationally and globally. It’s open to everyone from any background, and is all about starting conversations about mental health and the things in our daily lives that can affect it.
At OAS, we’ll be taking the opportunity to talk about all things mental health, with a focus on helping young people to access help and advice.
Throughout the week, we’ll be signposting free resources and support, sharing tips for employers about how to support their apprentices’ mental health, and hearing from the OAS Team and our learners about why talking about mental health is so important, and what we can all do to improve it in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths). We’ll also be raising awareness of the support we already have in place for anyone who needs it, as well as celebrating our network of Wellbeing Champions.
Keep an eye on our social media feeds and please like, share and comment to join the conversation, help spread the word, and get people talking.
Why is mental health important?
As a training provider to apprentices (with the majority of our learners aged under 24) as well as more experienced workers in the engineering and manufacturing sectors (which has a high proportion of middle aged males), current trends in the UK make mental health awareness a particularly relevant and important issue for OAS:
- 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year and 792 million people are affected by mental health issues globally[i]
- 1 in 5 adolescents experience a mental health problem in any given year, and 75% of mental health conditions are established by the time the person is 24 years old[ii]
- 16-24 year olds may be feeling more disconnected from their communities[iii]
- A third of young women aged 16 to 24 years in the UK report some evidence of depression or anxiety[iii]
- Whilst suicide and self-harm are not mental health problems themselves, they are linked with mental distress – 80-90% of people who attempt or die by suicide have a mental health condition, although not all are diagnosed[i]
- Men aged 40 – 49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK[i]
- 27% of people aged 16-24 say they have had suicidal thoughts in their lifetime, a higher percentage than any other age group[i]
- Self-harm is also more common amongst younger people and is linked to anxiety and depression, although it does also affect older adults and people with no diagnosed mental health issues[i]
- 70 and 75% of people with diagnosable mental illness don’t receive any treatment[i]
These figures all suggest that it’s more likely than not that someone we know is experiencing poor mental health, and that they’re not receiving help. By working to raise greater awareness of mental health issues and the resources available, we hope to encourage people to reach out and seek the support that can help them to improve their mental wellbeing.
What does OAS do to support learners’ mental health?
The safety and wellbeing of our learners is OAS’ top priority. We already have a range of different resources in place to support learners’ mental health, and we will continue to review and enhance this as part of our continuous improvement approach. This support currently includes:
- Designated Apprentice Co-ordinators
- Online and face-to-face drop-in sessions
- Trained Wellbeing Champions (including Mental Health First Aid) across all sites
- Learning needs and wellbeing risk assessment, with supporting adjustments such as time out cards and personal mentors
- Signposted information, advice, guidance, and support
- Mental Health enrichment sessions
- Unum helpline
Most importantly, we want our learners to understand that there is no problem too big or too small – we all need a bit of help sometimes. Learners can reach out to us for whatever support they need, whenever they need it. Our Apprentice Coordinators, Programme Managers and Wellbeing Champions have a huge list of tools and resources they can use to help, or learners can call Unum, our assistance provider, for totally a confidential chat and advice if they’d prefer to speak to someone outside the training centre.
Why is supporting mental health so important to OAS?
Supporting mental health is part of our commitment to welcoming all forms of diversity, and ensuring that everyone is supported to fulfil their potential.
The Equality Act 2010 makes it clear that a mental health condition is considered a disability within the Act if it has a long-term effect on someone’s normal day-to-day activity. If you’re serious about equality, then you’re serious about mental health too. We’re committed to creating safe spaces for young talent to explore this, and to providing direct support or facilitating access to external support for anyone who needs it.
Why is mental health important in the diversity context?
Growing diversity and representation within an organisation means that the number of mental health issues are also likely to increase since less well represented groups also tend to have a greater likelihood of experiencing mental health issues.
What’s more, if you’re aiming to grow your community’s diversity, it’s essential to make sure you’re doing so within an inclusive culture. An inclusive approach helps to create a psychologically safe space where everyone feels free to be their true and authentic selves without stress, fear or anxiety which could otherwise lead to more mental health challenges.
[i] Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England: https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/research-and-evaluation/mental-health-statistics/
[ii] Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-children-and-young-people
[iii] Office for National Statistics (ONS) https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/bulletins/youngpeopleswellbeingintheuk/2020