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Students moving into the workplace

Ben West - Youth campaigner

As a student soon to be entering the workplace, it’s concerning to see research showing that two in five people experience poor mental health due to their work.

I’m currently studying engineering at Liverpool and stats. in my sector don’t paint a great picture either. More than a third (37.2%) of engineers described their mental health as “fair” or “poor” and more than a fifth take time off because of mental health. In reality this is likely much higher, given the engineering sector is mostly men (79.5%) and 40% of men don’t talk about their mental health.

We also know that the leap from school to university and university to the workplace creates pinch points for our mental health. Though these are exciting times, they come with a lot of change: shifting support networks, new financial responsibilities and student debts. 

The transition to the workplace isn’t always easy. And with 75% of mental illnesses starting by age 24, taking care of our mental health, and having the right support, is really important at this time. 

What students want in the workplace
Organisations that care about health and wellbeing, that have support structures in place to help people stay well and to help them when they’re struggling will have more appeal every time. My generation will weigh the value of a company’s culture and support polices carefully alongside more traditional aspects, such as salary and progression. It therefore pays to have a wellbeing strategy that clearly covers mental health and is promoted online, to staff, and in job adverts. HR and People directors have an important role in putting in place support systems to ensure employees know what the steps are if they or someone they work with is struggling with their mental health. 

Having trained Mental Health First Aiders in the organisation is one part of this. They can help by spotting the signs, symptoms and triggers that could mean someone is unwell. There are also things organisations can encourage employees and managers of all levels to do to create an open and non-judgemental environment for mental health. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England’s Take 10 Together toolkit is a good place to start. It gives guidance and talking tips for starting the conversation with a colleague you think may be struggling with their mental health. 

What next?
There is a need for all organisations to be equipped with knowledge and skills on mental health just as they are for physical health. Training all teachers in MHFA skills and making it part of health and safety legislation will be vital to better protecting people’s mental health, now and in the future. Ultimately, I want to see a world where people can turn to their football coach, their teacher, their colleague, or their friend to talk about their mental health, and get support that could help save their life. 

Together we can transform our workplaces and schools into safer spaces for all. 

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