Stress Awareness Month – April 2022
Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992 to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic. Statistics from 2019 show that 74% of adults in the UK have felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope (Mental Health Foundation). The last two years have been especially difficult, particularly for our members working through that period whilst dealing with realities of the Covid-19 pandemic, so it’s even more important that we’re looking after ourselves and one another.
Stress is one of the greatest public health challenges, but it still isn’t taken seriously compared to physical illness. Stress is a significant factor in mental health problems like anxiety and depression, and is also linked to physical problems such as heart disease, insomnia, digestive issues, and problems with our immune system.
The month of April is an opportunity to help break the stigma around stress: talk about stress and its effects with your other CWU members and work colleagues, and show care, support and compassion to those who are feeling anxious, down or distressed. Also and importantly, look after yourself – the last two years have been an extremely difficult time for us all, so take time out of your day to relax and ensure you have space to breathe.
2022 Stress Awareness Month Theme
This year the theme is Community. This was chosen because lack of support can cause loneliness and isolation, which in turn lowers people’s wellbeing, impacts mental health and can lead to mental illness. Social isolation is an important risk factor for both deteriorating mental health and suicide. As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s vital that the collective, community support experienced by many people during this challenging time continues. Although restrictions have mainly been lifted, people need support now more than ever as they adjust to a new way of living. The pandemic has had a hugely detrimental effect on the nation’s mental health and sense of community. Disrupted social lives, the cancellation of large gatherings, travel restrictions and working from home have kept people in one place for long periods of time. However, one of the positives to emerge from this unparalleled situation has been the community spirit and support shown by so many to so many. It’s about having a sense of belonging and connection to others and feeling supported and accepted by them. Relationships are one of the most important aspects of our lives. People who are more socially connected to family, friends, work colleagues or their community in general are happier, physically healthier and live longer, with fewer mental health problems than people who are less well connected. Feeling lonely has a negative impact on mental health, particularly when these feelings are longstanding, and research suggests that it is associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress.
We in the CWU need to focus on this key issue of supporting our Reps, members, each other, families, friends, colleagues and ourselves
Stress Management Society
The Stress Management Society is a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping individuals and companies recognise and reduce stress. Founded by author Neil Shah in 2003 after he came through a period in his life where he suffered stress, depression and ill-health. The organisation aims to create a happier, healthier, more resilient and sustainable world. SMS claim to be the UK’s leading authority on stress management issues. The organisation runs workshops aimed at empowering individuals to take charge of their wellbeing and through guides and regular updates. They also act as advisors to many companies such as British Airways, Standard Life and Shell, guiding them on mental health and wellbeing. Today, Neil Shah and his SMS team are dedicated to leading effective universal change by maximising resilience, happiness, productivity and success through reducing stress and promoting wellbeing. The SMS website has dedicated a large section to Stress Awareness Month.
The Stress Management Society Website contains a lot of information and resources including:
Resources and Guides
- Free Resources
- Online Workshops and Events
- Individual Stress Test
- Stress Buster Newsletter
- Free Stress Guide
- Reduce Stress in 7 Days
- International Wellbeing Insights
- Other News and Events
- Adopt a Positive Mind Set
- Don’t be a Slave to Tech
- Eat for Wellbeing
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep
- Get Moving to Combat Stress
- Learn to Say No
- Master Your Time
- Practice Deep Breathing
- Prioritise Your Health
- Stay Hydrated
Stress at work
- Corporate Stress Test
- Recognising Workplace Stress
- What the Law Says
- HSE Guidelines
- Workplace Wellbeing Solutions
- Wellbeing Insights Audit
- Promotional Products
- Stress Management Society Website
- Stress Management Society – Stress Awareness Month Webpage
‘Mates In Mind’ Charity – Managing and reducing workplace stress handbook
Mates in Mind is a leading UK charity raising awareness and addressing the stigma of poor mental health. They promote and lead on the development of positive mental wellbeing within the workplace. Mates in Mind works across industries, focusing on construction, transport, logistics, manufacturing, and others. Mates in Mind aims to provide clear information to employers about the available support and guidance on mental health and wellbeing, and how they can address this within their organisations.
To support Stress Awareness Month within organisations, they have produced a concise, useful handbook aimed at employers as a useful resource and to assist with opening up vital conversations about stress at work and to initiate open and honest dialogues with the workforce and employees. The Mates in Mind charity works in collaboration with a number of organisations such as the ‘Stress Management Society’ and the ‘British Safety Council’. See attached pdf copy of the Mates in Mind Charity – Managing and reducing workplace stress handbook.
- ‘Mates in Mind’ – Managing and reducing workplace stress handbook – attached
- ‘Mates in Mind’ Charity Website: https://www.matesinmind.org/
HSE launches ‘Working Minds’ Work-Stress campaign to encourage employers to promote good mental health at work
Work-related stress and poor mental health risk becoming a health and safety crisis for Great Britain’s workplaces, the HSE, UK’s regulator has warned. While the full impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is yet to be fully understood, mental health issues are the number one reason given for sick days in the UK. Last year more than 17 million working days were lost as a result of stress, anxiety, or depression the HSE report. A recent survey by the charity ‘Mind’ suggests that two in five employees’ mental health had worsened during the pandemic.
In response, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched its new campaign, ‘Working Minds’, which examines issues relating to health at work. The campaign aims to help employers, businesses and organisations recognise the signs of work-related stress and make tackling issues routine.
While ‘Working Minds’ is specifically targeting six million workers in small businesses, HSE is calling for a culture change across all of Britain’s workplaces, to ensure psychological risks are treated the same as physical ones in health and safety risk management.
HSE’s chief executive officer Sarah Albon stated at the launch of the ‘Working Minds’ campaign that: “Work-related stress and poor mental health should be treated with the same significance as risks of poor physical health and injury. In terms of the affect it has on workers, significant and long-term stress can limit performance and impact personal lives. No worker should suffer in silence and if we don’t act now to improve workers’ mental health, this could evolve into a health and safety crisis. The pandemic has highlighted the need to protect the health of employees who have faced unprecedented challenges; the Government is committed to building back better and we want to make sure good mental health is central to this.”
The HSE is reminding employers and business that no matter where people work, employers have a legal duty to assess the risks in the workplace, not just in terms of potential hazards and physical safety. They should also promote good working practices. It says this promotes an open environment where employees can share their concerns and discuss options to ease pressures.
HSE state that the campaign is focused on giving employers a clear reminder of their legal duties while championing reducing work-related stress and promoting good mental health at work.
The HSE has partnered with a number of organisations to highlight the triggers of stress and the legal duty of employers and how to manage the risks. The network of Working Minds champions includes the charity ‘Mind’, which supports and empowers anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
The HSE state that the ‘Working Minds’ campaign is aimed specifically at supporting small businesses by providing employers and workers with easy to implement advice, including simple steps in its ‘5 R’s’ to Reach out, Recognise, Respond, Reflect, and make it Routine.
Dane Krambergar, Head of Workplace Wellbeing Services at mental health charity ‘Mind’ stated that: “Mind is pleased to be supporting HSE’s ‘Working Minds’ campaign which aims to support businesses and employers to promote good mental health among their staff. ‘Mind’ has long been working with employers of different sizes and sectors to help them create mentally healthy workplaces, but this has never been more important. This campaign couldn’t have come at a better time, given the impact the pandemic has taken on employers and workers.”
Mind recently surveyed over 40,000 staff working across 114 organisations. Two in five (41 per cent) of the workers told Mind that their mental health had worsened during the pandemic.
Professor Neil Greenberg, Chair of the Occupational Psychiatry Special Interest Group at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, stated: “Good mental health is just as important as good physical health, so it’s vital that employers do all that they can to promote good mental health in the workplace. Employees should be given appropriate support to help minimise the likelihood of experiencing work-related mental health problems and be supported in their treatment and recovery if they do develop or live with a mental illness. HSE’s ‘Working Minds’ campaign will give organisations and employers the necessary tools to spot potential signs of mental ill-health amongst workers and to develop or improve their practices to protect the psychological health of their workforce.”
Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Chloe Smith stated: “Making sure businesses have the right tools to recognise and support their employees with their mental health is key to creating healthy workforces across the country. This campaign is so important and alongside our other measures to help reduce ill-health related job loss and initiatives such as Access to Work we can ensure even more people can stay in their job and thrive.”
- HSE ‘Working Minds’ Webpage – All the information about the HSE Working Minds campaign, including the legal obligations, advice, and tools available – visit: https://workright.campaign.gov.uk/workingminds/
- Peter Kelly senior psychologist for the Health and Safety Executive short video talking about promoting the prevention of work-related stress and mental health.
- Peter Kelly, UK HSE Senior Psychologist – Video Presentation cover Work Stress and the Case for Primary Prevention & UK Experience
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Stress Management Standards
The HSE identifies six key areas of the workplace that need to be managed and controlled effectively by employers in order to prevent excess stress at work and stress-related illnesses. The six key areas can be used to assess how well an organisation and employers are managing stress. Meeting the standards in these areas significantly contributes to a culture of wellbeing, decreases sickness absence and increases productivity. The HSE suggests using the standards in each of the six key areas to assess the risk of stress in the organisation.
- HSE Stress Management Standards Webpage
NHS – National Stress Awareness Month ‘Moodzone’
The NHS ‘Moodzone’ have developed a list of 10 things you can do to help reduce stress levels:
- Be Active – Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you deal with your problems more calmly.
- Take Control – The feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing. The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.
- Connect with People – A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way. The activities we do with friends help us relax. We often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever. Talking things through with a friend will also help you find solutions to your problems.
- Have some “Me Time” – Here in the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe, meaning we often don’t spend enough time doing things we really enjoy. We all need to take some time for socialising, relaxation or exercise.
- Challenge Yourself – Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. This will help you deal with stress.
- Avoid unhealthy habits – Don’t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. Men more than women are likely to do this. We call this avoidance behaviour. Over the long term, these crutches won’t solve your problems; they’ll just create new ones.
- Help Other People – evidence shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient. If you don’t have time to volunteer, try to do someone a favour. It can be something as small as helping someone to cross the road or going on a coffee run for colleagues.
- Work Smarter, not Harder – Working smarter means prioritising your work, concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference.
- Try to be positive – Look for the positives in life, and things for which you’re grateful. Try writing down three things that went well, or for which you’re grateful, at the end of every day.
- Accept the things you can’t change – Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. Try to concentrate on the things you do have control over.
Mental Health Foundation
The Mental Health Foundation have published research concluding that mental health problems cost the UK economy at least £118 billion per year, much of which is preventable. The MHF concluded that they want the prevention of poor mental health to be at the centre of the UK’s approach to mental health. The new LSE commissioned report, ‘The economic case for investing in the prevention of mental health conditions in the UK’, provides evidence from the UK and around the world that proves prevention interventions work. MHF say that many mental health problems are preventable, so it is counter-productive to wait until problems arise before providing support. The report describes cost-effective programmes that can prevent poor mental health.
By focusing on the prevention of poor mental health, MHF say that we can reduce both economic and personal costs, and support more people to live mentally healthy lives.
Rather than waiting for people to become unwell and trying to get treatment, governments and decision-makers should commit to policies that promote good mental health and invest in community programmes that empower everyone, especially people at higher risk, to live well.
The report demonstrates the success of initiatives such as parenting programmes, anti-bullying programmes, and workplace support. Not only are people supported to have good mental health, but there are significant cost savings. For example, one study found that for every £1 spent on parenting programmes, £9.30 could be saved in the long-term, through costs saved to the health, education and criminal justice sectors.
This research adds to the growing evidence that we present to decision-makers across the UK as we seek to influence the policies and investments that impact all our mental health. There is an opportunity to revolutionise how we approach mental health in the UK; focusing on preventing poor mental health, enabling people to thrive, and saving our economy billions of GBP in the long term. The research report can be accessed at the MHF link below.
- Mental Health Foundation
UK National Work Stress Network – New ‘Work Stress Guide Handbook’
The UK National Work Stress Network is a voluntary organisation that campaigns to secure proper recognition of the damage caused by work-stress and to prevent work-related stress. They aim to educate and raise awareness of work-stress and to improve legislation on health, safety and employment rights in the UK and Europe. The organisation is part of the ‘Hazards Campaign’ and has close links to the Trade Union movement. The UK National Work Stress Network consists of unpaid volunteers, bringing together workplace trade union and health and safety representatives, academics, safety professionals and others to campaign for the better protection of workers against stress-related mental and physical illnesses caused by poorly controlled workplace psycho-social hazards.
The UK Work-Stress Network has been fighting for years alongside Trade Unions and the Hazards Campaign for the protection of health and safety in the workplace and action on stress and mental health. The organisation, CWU, other Trade Unions and the TUC, now have major concerns about the outcome of any shift away from existing EU-based health and safety law into new UK law and the very likely future diminution of health and safety and other associated laws.
The latest edition of the ‘Work Stress Guide’ handbook has been published with the CWU being one of the publication’s sponsors, along with several other Unions; FBU, FDA, GMB, NASUWT, UNISON, Unite and both the Hazards Campaign and Scottish Hazards. CWU adopted this handbook as our ‘Work Stress Guide’ launched in 2018.
The New handbook examines:
- The extent of work-related stress illness.
- The cost of work-related stress illnesses to the individual, society and the economy.
- The causes of work-related stress.
- The effects of stress on the mental and physical health of workers.
- Obstacles to progress.
- The law.
- The solution.
- Preventing work stress (the role of Government, employers, Trade Unions and individuals).
- Conducting a risk assessment.
- Dealing with individual stress.
- WorkStress (UK National Work Stress Network).
- Fit notes.
- Sample workplace audit forms.
- The European dimension.
- Useful sources of information.
A pdf copy of the handbook is attached. The Health, Safety and Environment Department distributed hard copies of the books to Senior Health and Safety Reps via Regional Health and Safety Committees and at Annual Conference. Further bulk hard copies can also be purchased by Branches directly from The UK Work-Stress Network.
Problem and Extent of Workplace Stress-Related Illness
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them.” Too many workers are trapped in highly stressful environments as a result of poor work organisation and negative behaviours in the workplace. As a result, levels of stress-related mental and physical illness caused or made worse by work are very high. Those at the bottom of the workplace pecking order are often the major victims of stress-related illness. Sufferers are not weak individuals who are incapable of coping with the normal demands of working life. The reverse is often the case, and it can be those who refuse to bend under these pressures and who refuse to admit to themselves that they are being overwhelmed who often succumb to incapacitating stress-related illnesses.
Highly stressful workplaces are ‘dysfunctional’ because they work to the benefit neither of the employee nor of the employer. The former can suffer from a range of stress-related mental and physical illnesses and the latter reaps this harvest in terms of low productivity, low employee morale and rapid staff turnover. Instead of taking measures to prevent this epidemic of injury, too often managers or employers make excessive demands, neglect their common-law duty of care and clearly ignore the cost to their organisations of sick pay, long-term absence, reduced productivity and potential claims for compensation by workers made ill by their negligence. However, it is the human cost of work-related stress, in terms of wrecked lives and relationships, debilitating mental and physical illness and sometimes, tragically, death that should concern us most.
No one should leave work at the end of the day less healthy than they were when they started. All too often we hear of workers trapped in highly stressful environments, often also the subject of bullying, victimisation and harassment or discrimination. When we see how many people are affected by their work (and sometimes by fellow workers), it is heartrending to say the least. We learn that their managers or employers make excessive demands, neglect their common law duty of care and clearly ignore the cost to the organisation through sick pay, long-term absence, reduced production and potential compensation for making their workers ill.
Stress is a major cause of sickness absence in the workplace and costs over £5 billion a year in Great Britain. It affects individuals, their families and colleagues by impacting on their health but it also impacts on employers with costs relating to sickness absence, replacement staff, lost production and increased accidents.
The UK National Work-Stress Network is committed to the eradication of the causes of work-related stress and associated illnesses. They campaign to advance this aim through involvement with the Hazards Campaign and in conjunction with the TUC, UK Trade Unions and European organisations.
The Network consists of many hundreds of like-minded people, some of whom have suffered the consequences of work-related stress. Amongst their numbers are experienced caseworkers, counsellors, occupational health workers, Trade Union officials, and those who are just determined to see effective management which recognises the needs of the workforce as well as of business.
The UK National Work-Stress Network’s website (www.workstress.net) regularly receives over 40,000 visits each month and is the basis for the information they provide. They also produce three or four electronic newsletters each year. All documents on the website are free to copy and circulate. In addition, they facilitate workshops and seminars as requested and play a significant role at Hazards Conferences in the UK and Europe.
The UK operates in a climate of uncertainty and job insecurity, as the rights of employees have been regularly eroded in favour of a ‘business and enterprise culture’. Short-term and temporary contracts, zero-hours contracts, casualisation, privatisation, the conversion of public services into ‘businesses’ in which a smaller number of workers are expected to deliver the same amount of work, and increased lone working – have all increased pressure on the worker, thus changing the face of employment. Excessive target-setting, bureaucracy and performance measurement now pervade many aspects of work, applying additional pressures to workers, at every level. Coercive management practices (bullying) flourish as pressure increases to cut costs, and to meet targets, often with reduced staffing. This profit-motivated attitude has led to an unacceptable rise in the reported cases of stress-related workplace illness.
The UK National Work-Stress Network calls for:
- Employers, company directors and managers at all levels to acknowledge their duty of care and their acceptance of their health and safety responsibilities to the workforce.
- Legislation and enforcement procedures to outlaw all forms of workplace stress, bullying and victimisation; also to ensure full corporate liability for workplace injury.
- The creation of a caring supportive workplace culture with ‘Dignity at Work’ and worker-sensitive procedures for all.
- Specific regulations or an Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) or giving clear instructions to management on the necessary actions to remove stress related illness from the workplace, regulations in which the right of people at work to be treated with dignity and respect is explicitly stated to prevent the abuse of hierarchical position, which creates a bullying culture.
The UK National Work-Stress Network provides speakers for local and national events and facilitates workshops and seminars for Trade Union and human resources groups. The Network continues to be closely involved with the Hazards Campaign and takes an active part in both UK and European Hazards conferences.
Purchasing Bulk Copies Of The Work-Stress Guide Booklet
Copies of the Work Stress Guide Booklet can be purchased as follows:
A box of 55 copies comes at a charge of £1 per copy plus admin and p&p = £80. Orders can be processed via:
Joan McNulty (Network Coordinator)
UK National Work Stress Network
The UK National Work-Stress Network Annual Conference
The UK National Work-Stress Network holds an Annual Conference in November each year at the Hillscourt Conference Centre, Rednal, Birmingham B45 8RS. When details are confirmed and application forms are available, full details will be published via an LTB to Branches, Safety Reps and Regional Health and Safety Forums.
- UK Work-Stress Network Website
- Pdf Copy of the UK National Work-Stress Network – ‘Work-Stress Guide Booklet’ is attached.
The Samaritans Charity are supporting Stress Awareness Month and want to get out the message to those in distress – Whatever you’re facing, a Samaritan will face it with you.
Every 10 seconds, Samaritans responds to a call for help. Their 24/7 Helpline is open day or night, for anyone who’s struggling to cope in any way, who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure. Samaritans is not only for the moment of crisis, they’re taking action to prevent the crisis. Samaritans will give people advice on ways to cope and the skills to be there for others. They encourage, promote and celebrate those moments of connection between people that can save lives. They offer listening and support to people and communities in times of need. Samaritans are working with people who are going through a difficult time and training others to do the same. Every year, Samaritans volunteers spend over one million hours answering calls for help via their unique 24-hour listening service, or by email, letter or face to face. Samaritans campaign to make suicide prevention a national and local priority. Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy, and Samaritans’ vision is that fewer people die by suicide. That’s why they work tirelessly to reach and help more people who are suffering stress, anxiety, depression and hopelessness. Samaritans make sure there’s someone there for anyone who needs someone. Giving people time, undivided attention and empathy meets a fundamental emotional need and reduces distress and despair.
- Whatever people are going through, they can call any time, 24/7, 365 days a year from any phone for FREE: – 116 123
- Sometimes writing down thoughts and feelings can be easier and preferred – e-mail: – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Samaritans – ‘Talking Got Me Through’ Leaflet attached
- Samaritans – ‘Managing Stress-Making Choices’ Coping Strategies – PowerPoint Slides attached
What Else Could You Do For Stress Awareness Month?
- Talk about Stress and its effects – let’s work together to reduce the stigma that is associated with stress by talking about the topic openly and freely with friends, family and colleagues.
- Share your coping mechanisms – if something has worked for you why not share it. It might benefit someone you care about and in the meantime, it might help you take your focus off your own challenges.
- Support those who are stressed and anxious – we are all undoubtedly going to experience stress and anxiety in our lifetime so treat others going through it with compassion and empathy.
- Look after yourself – we all need to think more about self–care. Take time out of your day to relax or do something that you enjoy. Don’t forget to exercise and eat well, even when you feel too stressed.
- UK Work-Stress Network – Stress Guide Handbook
- Mates in Mind – Managing and reducing workplace stress handbook
- Mental Health Foundation – Stress Are We Coping Research Report
- Samaritans – Talking Got Me Through Leaflet
- Samaritans – ‘Managing Stress-Making Choices’ Coping Strategies – PowerPoint Slides
Prevent Stress and Support Mental Health at Work
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer