The Blue Monday Myth – RoSPA Workplace Safety Blog

‘Blue Monday’ may not be supported by hard evidence, but depression and other mental health issues are a real concern in the workplace.

Before 2005 no-one talked about Blue Monday.

The reason for this is because the idea that the third Monday in the month of January, later dubbed ‘Blue Monday’, was invented in a press release 15 years ago. The method used to develop the concept has since come under a lot of scrutiny, but despite this, a lot of people do suffer with their mental health during the winter.

According to research conducted by pollster YouGov, as many as 29 per cent of UK adults may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is characterised by persistent low mood, irritability, and feeling sleepy during the day.


Managing mental health in the workplace

Although feelings of despondency and symptoms of depression can peak in winter months, it is important to remember that mental health issues can have a real impact on workplaces all year round.

Last year, the Health and Safety Executive reported that at any one time, a third of workers in the UK suffer with depression, stress and anxiety. In 2017/18 this led to 15.4million lost working days.

As well as a loss of productivity, employees who are suffering from mental health issues such as depression or stress may be at higher risk of being involved in an accident. For some time now, RoSPA, has recognise that supporting people with mental health issue at work is a key challenge for health and safety managers. In 2016 RoSPA published a policy position on this subject.

You can look out for your employees or colleagues by learning to spot the signs of common mental health disorders such as stress or depression:

  • Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Sadness that doesn’t go away
  • Tiredness/loss of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Avoiding other people, even close friends or family
  • Sleep problems
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Mental health charity MIND has further advice on how to spot mental health issues at work.

In addition to learning to spot the signs that someone may be suffering, it is important to put in place practices that will help develop a supportive workplace culture:

Risk Assessments

In consultation with safety representatives, risk assessments should be reviewed in such cases to determine whether additional measures are necessary to cope with any potential safety performance impairments due to stress (whether occupational or non-occupational in origin).

Training

Training programmes for managers and safety representatives on how to deal with stress should not only address the identification, assessment and management of occupational stress and stressors, but how to tackle the safety impact of non-occupational stress in key staff.

Support

Staff experiencing stress need re-assurance that any adjustments to their work for safety reasons will not lead to unfair discrimination. Similarly, organisations need to have arrangements in place to counsel support, and rehabilitate staff who have suffered mental trauma as a result of accident involvement, whether as a casualty or a witness.

For more advice about managing mental health in the workplace please visit the RoSPA website: www.rospa.com/Occupational-Safety/Advice/Health/Stress


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