Taking place 15-19 May 2023, Mental Health Awareness Week is an annual event across the UK. Created by the Mental Health Foundation 23 years ago, Mental Health Awareness Week grows in gravitas every year, as more and more people come together to tackle stigma and promote good mental health.
Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week at Work
As the popularity of Mental Health Awareness Week soars, workplaces are no exception. Having supported our clients with their Mental Health Awareness Week plans at work for over a decade, it’s gratifying to see so many double down their efforts. Today, few companies will let this week pass them by, with the majority striving to curate a week of events to make mental health awareness week at work one to remember.
In this blog post, we’ll inspire you with ideas and activities to help celebrate mental health awareness week at your workplace. We’ll explore:
- What is Mental Health Awareness Week and why should my workplace mark it?
- What’s the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year?
- Ideas for Mental Health Awareness Week activities at Work
- Mental Health Awareness Week at Work on a budget
What is Mental Health Awareness Week?
Mental Health Awareness is an annual week-long event, always taking place in mid May. The aim of the week is to enable people to understand and prioritise good mental health. First established 23 years ago, Mental Health Awareness Week is now one of the most high-profile public campaigns in the UK.
What’s the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2023?
2023’s theme is Anxiety.
Anxiety is a natural reaction to stress or threat. In fact, you could see it as a hard-wired safety response – part of the “fight or flight” instinct. When we or someone we care about is at risk, our brain prioritises the danger and focuses its energy on beating it.
When we’re anxious, complex thinking processes are shut down to allow us to concentrate on the danger at hand. Meanwhile, signals go out to our body to prepare for action. Our breathing quickens, our heart starts pumping faster, sending more blood to our muscles as we prepare to fight or flee. Both the mind and body adapt in order to give us the best chance of surviving until the danger passes.
Anxious thoughts and feelings are a predictable and appropriate response for many situations
However, the same responses can be triggered when there is no immediate physical danger. Just thinking about a threat, past or future, can be enough to activate intense anxiety. And this can mean that there’s also no clear end point to the threat, so all these anxious feelings can persist. In these circumstances, anxiety can evolve into something that’s problematic.
Ideas for Mental Health Awareness Week activities at Work
1. Explore Anxiety and what it means for your colleagues.
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, you don’t have to factor in the theme, but it does provide a a hook to anchor your mental health content and comms for the week.
And with rates of anxiety significantly on the rise, this isn’t a topic that should be ignored. Created especially for Mental Health Awareness Week, our signature workshop Managing Anxious Thoughts shares self-care strategies and mindset techniques to help manage anxious thoughts.
2. Make Mental Health a Priority ALL week
Try to keep the momentum and mental health conversation going all week. As well as the Managing Anxious thoughts workshop above, you may wish to try some yoga, meditation, massage and mood-boosting nutrition. We’ve curated a programme of workshops and classes exploring the theme of anxiety. See our suggested sessions here: Mental Health Awareness Week 2023
For Mental Health Awareness Weeks of past, below are some of the sessions our clients have booked:
- Good Mood Food: Nutrition for Mental Health
- A day of on-site office massage
- An office yoga class
- Mental Health Training for Managers
3. Seek Support from Senior Leaders
The support of senior figures is integral to the success of any workplace wellbeing initiatives and Mental Health Awareness week is no different.
Ideally senior leaders will attend the sessions. If leaders and managers can’t physically attend the wellbeing sessions themselves, then they should promote and talk about them – encouraging their staff to take the time to attend. Some of our clients have a senior figure ‘sponsor’ a wellbeing event, preluding it with a personal introduction or sharing a story of their own wellbeing, mental health – or perhaps own experiences of anxiety.
4. Mental Health Awareness Week at work on a budget
We appreciate budgets are stretched this year, but that’s not excuse to let MHAW go unnoticed. Try rolling out some of these suggestions company-wide to show your support behind the cause.
- Give everyone an hour (or even better, a whole afternoon) of free time to do something for their mental health
- Have a meeting-free day
- Create a dedicated Slack channel where staff can share tips for managing anxiety, or their mental health in genera
- Circulate the free resources from the Mental Health Foundation website. Check here regularly to see what resources are shared.