The pressure of perception – our view of mental health awareness

Posted 15th May 2019
By Focus7

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week right now (May 13-19) and we at Focus7 have been putting our heads together to think up ways of marking it appropriately. The conversations have been fascinating, and we’ve shared lots of insights that have both surprised us; and inspired us to support each other more fully in the weeks and months ahead.

One fact really stood out… on average an adult says ‘I’m fine’ about 14 times every week. Twice a day! But the really interesting statistic is that only 19% mean it when they say it. Mental health problems, it is clear, are likely to affect all of us at some time in our lives.

One in six British workers are affected by conditions like anxiety and depression every year. Yet that does not necessarily mean we are unable to work. With the right support, we can carry on. In our view, the workplace can be tough – but it can also be a supportive, helpful environment with the right mindset and mechanisms in place.

As a business, we at Focus7 are proud to care about our employees and their mental wellbeing. We are a values-based company that puts people at the heart of everything we do. The team is open, honest and friendly – and we think it helps that we understand that the perceptions our colleagues have of us can impact on our mental health.

The pressure of perception can be potent. To cut a complex story short, we all tend to feel pressure because of how we think we’re being perceived by those around us. This line of thinking, known as attribution theory, is all about us trying to make sense of the world around us, by making certain assumptions. When we look at someone, we instinctively try to work out whether their behaviour is caused by internal (under their personal control) or external factors (situations that are out of their control).

"I'm Fine"

Now at work, such perceptions can cause miscommunication. You might perceive your colleague to be lazy because they always arrive at work at 9.15 when everyone else starts at nine. But what if they have a child with a medical condition who needs special schooling and at a place that doesn’t open until nine? Maybe they have made arrangements with their supervisor that you’re not aware of. This shows how perception can be a problematic, when you don’t have all the facts.

The point is that pressure in the workplace can be unavoidable, no matter how hard we all work at it. But despite all the stresses and strains of our hectic, always switched-on uber-connected world, a little understanding can go a long way. Which brings us to our Mental Health Awareness Week activities.

We’re running two group exercises so that we can come together to discuss and support the cause. One is a meditation gathering and the other a drumming session led by our Head of Digital Audrey Fernandes-Fewell. (Studies show that soothing drum beat rhythms can be a powerful tool to promote mental health.)  Then, at the end of the week we’ll have a Sharing Session. Everyone will write down a nice word or sentence about a colleague on a piece of paper, fold it and pass it on. When that process is finished, the individual will be able to unfold the paper to reveal the sentiments!

What are you up to this week to raise awareness for mental health? We’d love you to share your ideas and initiatives with us via the social media icons in our footer.


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