Mental Health in the Not-for-profit Sector

“Mental illness is a physical illness” – Rub Wax, Mental Health Campaigner 


Our mental health, just like our physical health, needs looking after.


With estimates that 1 in 4 people experience a mental health issue, it is likely you or a loved one may be suffering. In 2018, 16 people per day took their own lives and it is estimated that 10-25 times that many people attempted to take their own lives.


In the workplace mental health is not often a top priority and yet 54% of the 72 million working days lost in 2018/19 in the UK were mental health related.


mental healthThe very nature of not-for-profit work can often involve working directly or indirectly in places or with people who are facing hardships. This can take its toll on the employees who are working in these situations.


Staff retention in the not-for-profit sector is a challenge due to tight budgets that can often mean supporting wellbeing and creating a supportive and understanding culture is even more important for retention but not always budgeted for. Not-for-profit organisations often find themselves needing to get more creative in order to improve wellbeing and culture.


At the moment we are running surveys on behalf of several organisations that are investigating wellbeing and mental health during the period of COVID-19 restrictions and how this has impacted their employee’s mental health.


In our ‘Not-for-profit Sector COVID-19 Employee Survey April 2020 Summary Report’ we found that across the board, the impact of the current crisis on people’s mental wellbeing is substantial, with 37% of employees reporting that their mental wellbeing has worsened as a result of the impact of COVID-19 on their role.


We have also seen that key workers who cannot work from home are less positive and are more likely to be experiencing mental health issues.


As this was such a prominent topic in the results from the April Survey, we have included mental health questions in our ‘Emerging from Lockdown’ programme of short surveys, enabling participating not-for-profit organisations to monitor how their people are feeling and coping through this time of uncertainty and readjustment.


Understanding your employee’s wellbeing is key and we have seen more and more organisations include peer reviewed wellbeing questions in their workforce surveys, as well as several organisations undertaking specialised wellbeing surveys.


Surveys can be an invaluable tool to understand and monitor employees’ feelings about their organisation and work, but they are not simply a HR box to tick. It is what an organisation does with their results that sets them apart from the rest.


While surveys act as diagnostic tools in identifying issues, just like with any diagnosis, the key is how you act on the results.



What are organisations already doing to aid employee wellbeing?


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Identifying key issues


Stress has emerged as a systemic issue throughout the working world.


As a result, 77% of non-profit organisations are taking action to tackle stress. Identifying wellbeing issues specific to your organisation will have a greater impact, with the multiplying effect that staff will know you listened and you care about the difficulties they face. Surveys, good managers and trained, vigilant staff can help identify key issues contributing to a deterioration in mental health in your organisation.


Implementing policies and practices


Wellbeing programmes are now a regular part of an organisation’s benefits package. Many organisations, such as Google have introduced schemes which provide light training in peer support to willing employees.


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Leading from the front


As usual it is important to lead by example. Why should an employee take a programme or their mental health seriously if their executive does not? You can have great mental health programmes, but it takes good leadership to drive these forwards, to change the culture, so that these programmes are fully utilised.



Looking after yourself


Also remember to look after yourself. Just like in an airplane safety test where they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others with theirs, it is critical you take care of yourself.


mental health

Some tips for aiding your personal mental health include:

  • Maintaining a normal routine
  • Good sleep
  • Staying active
  • Staying social
  • Managing stress
  • Mindfulness meditation


If you are struggling yourself during this difficult time, please know that you are never alone and please reach out to someone. Be kind to others, be kind to yourself.



Further materials


Resource from WHO: Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak


Resource from MIND:  How to promote wellbeing and tackle the causes of work-related mental health problems


Resource from MIND: Working from home: a Wellness Action Plan


Resource from BBC: How to get good sleep during lockdown



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