This week marks the start of this year's Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme for this year is 'Kindness'. In our regular series, Five Minutes with, we're catching up with our Mental Health First Aiders from across dentsu to hear how they're adjusting to the life working from home and their hints and tips on how to stay mentally healthy in the current climate.

Mario Ekkeshis, Managing Director of Operations, dentsu shares his thoughts on why it's important to have a mentally healthy workplace and the need for Kindness.

As a Mental Health First Aider, why do you think it’s so important to have a mentally healthy workplace?

The answer to this question is obvious! Happier environment, good culture, better retention, more creative output and innovation etc. All of these are great outputs to a mentally healthy workplace. But to limit this question to the workplace does the entire subject a bit of a disservice. We should be aiming to improve mental health in all areas of society, not just in the workplace. Mental Health has grown in discussion and acceptance over the last few years and this is the key to achieving a mentally healthy society. Whether you find support from someone at work for an issue stemming outside of work or vice versa, communication and dialogue are the vital components to combatting this common issue.

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Kindness; why is it so important to check in with each other now more than ever?

With so much uncertainty in the world at the moment, it is more important than ever to support and look out for those around you, colleagues, family, friends, neighbours, anyone within your circle really. It is particularly important as the chances are you are not physically seeing most of these people at this moment in time which can increase levels of anxiety and uncertainty as to what the future holds.

As a line manager, it is generally common practice to have regular check-ins with your direct reports and whilst these 1:1’s should always be important, they are even more crucial during this homeworking period we currently find ourselves in. Ensure you always conduct these catch-ups with cameras on and try to stay in tune with how each person is coping in these strange times. If you have any doubts at all, be brave enough to check.

One key takeaway from the Mental Health First Aid training I completed last year (run by the brilliant team at Mental Health England was to always be on the look out for anyone who is struggling and if you think they might be, make sure you ask one very simple question - ‘Are you ok?’. It seems so simple but many people shy away from this thinking it may offend or upset the individual even more. Again, this advice applies to all walks of life, not just in the workplace environment. Let’s try to make the #BeKind movement a standard way of life rather than just a popular social reaction to adversity.

If you could give one tip to someone who is finding it hard to adjust through current changes, what would this be?

Again, there is only one real answer to this question and that is to talk. Don’t be afraid, don’t be embarrassed, just identify at least one person who you feel you can share with and share your heart away, you will not regret it. Dentsu UK employees are fortunate to have access to the Employee Assistance Programme (0800 389 0285) where you can speak to a trained advisor which is a further benefit if you would prefer to speak to someone independent. Talk, talk, talk- do not suffer in silence.

I know the question only asked for one tip but other more practical tips are again obvious including making sure you are getting enough sleep, exercising more regularly, eating a healthier balanced diet and limiting your intake of stimulants, especially alcohol & caffeine (yes caffeine! You should ideally aim for no more than 3 coffees a day) So now we’re in lockdown, take advantage of the lack of commute by sleeping more, use the daily exercise allowance, dust off the healthy cook books and invest in some good decaf coffee!