Blue Monday: Supporting workplace mental health in social care

Dubbed the most depressing day of the year, Blue Monday (17 January 2022) is an annual phenomenon taking place in the third week of January each year. The day marks the moment that many people experience uncharacteristically strong feelings of depression, which are often attributed to the cold weather, dark nights, and financial pressure post-Christmas.

Although some say that Blue Monday doesn’t exist, every year it exposes the variety of mental health pressures experienced by people from all walks of life.

After a difficult two years, social care has been identified as an industry under immense pressure, with large numbers of care professionals reporting a significant increase in mental health problems. A 2021 survey by Unison showed that 68% of care professionals reported that their mental health had declined during the pandemic.

To ensure that care is delivered to the highest and most productive standard, the mental health of care professionals should be supported as effectively as possible. Theresa McNally, Creative Practice Manager at Vida Healthcare, offers advice on how to support the mental wellbeing of care professionals for Blue Monday and beyond.

Create an open mental health culture.
Although it has become more acceptable to discuss mental health, some people continue to experience stigma or hesitation in the workplace when issues do arise. Experiencing a mental health issue is very common and can sometimes impact an individual's ability to work.

Cultivating an open, supportive work environment for mental health conversations is extremely important. Knowing when an employee is struggling allows proper support to be put in place to prevent the issue getting worse. If left concealed, a mental health problem could become more pervasive, leading to reduced productivity or sick leave being taken.

While taking leave when necessary is completely acceptable, leaving gaps in care provision due to short staffing exposes potential standards and safeguarding issues. This issue can be avoided by ensuring colleagues feel comfortable communicating their mental health concerns.

Vida Healthcare has developed and launched technological initiatives to support staff at work, and create an open mental health culture. The Team Talk app was developed to keep staff across Vida’s three homes connected, provide insight into developments at board level, and offer updates on the latest headlines relevant to social care and care homes in particular. Care organisations can utilise systems like Team Talk to promote mentally healthy workplaces and provide guidance and resources to care professionals through open, accessible communication.

What do I do if a colleague is struggling?
To help a carer feel supported at work, introducing simple changes can have a big impact. A busy day ahead can be intimidating for anyone, but it could seem insurmountable for someone experiencing a mental health difficulty. By breaking down a carer’s tasks into manageable chunks, care home operators can make their day seem more achievable, potentially reducing feelings of anxiety and pressure. This in turn will also benefit the residents who live at the care home and receive care and support from staff.

Introducing small measures to support a colleague at a time of need reduces the likelihood of more adverse disruption further down the line, ensuring an organisation continues to deliver consistent, quality care.

Thinking long term.
Incorporating trained mental health first aiders into your team can help create a mentally healthy workplace. Mental health first aiders have the knowledge and skills to support carers during tough times and identify where staff might need help. While they’re a great addition to any professional environment, they are vital in a high pressure role like social care.

Organisations such as Mind and Mental Health at Work offer more information on mental health issues, with useful resources and guidance on how to support employees during difficult periods.

For more information on how an outstanding care provider is supporting the mental health of staff through initiatives including career and training opportunities, please visit www.vidahealthcare.co.uk.