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Mental health matters

An estimated 1 in 4 adults in the UK experience a mental health issue each year. For Mental Health Awareness Week, the Geological Society is looking at ways to support the wellbeing of geoscience students and professionals.

Many of us may have come across the statistic that 1 in 4 people will face a mental health issue in their lifetime. We now know that poor mental health is far more common: 1 in 4 adults in the UK face a mental health issue each year, and up to one quarter of university students have accessed or requested access to mental health services. Many companies and universities have responded by putting a new emphasis on wellbeing.

Defining wellbeing

There are probably as many definitions of wellbeing as there are people, but the charity Mind suggests that wellbeing encompasses how a person is feeling, and how well they are able to cope with day-to-day life. Someone with a positive mental state may be better able to maintain relationships, engage with the world, and cope with normal life stresses. Having good mental wellbeing enables a person to be productive in their work and home life, and can help them adapt in times of change or uncertainty.

There is no single path to wellbeing, but in general having a strong network of friends and family, having time to participate in hobbies and physical activity, and having secure employment and income all contribute to a positive mental state.

Sources of stress

Many of the reasons cited for entering the geosciences – the ability to work outdoors and in close teams, plus the opportunity to contribute to protecting people and the planet – also promote mental wellbeing. But there are also a number of potential sources of stress associated with the work done by geoscientists. Remote field sites can isolate workers from their support networks, and the distance to medical or other services can be unsettling. Geoscientists may be engaging with communities immediately after devastating natural disasters, or those in the grips of ongoing issues such as drought or water contamination. Others will be asked to feed into difficult discussions on acceptable levels of risk around issues like flooding or potential volcanic activity. Additionally, many geologists and geoengineers are employed in industries that are highly sensitive to market fluctuations, and thus may feel insecure in their employment.

Photo by Ryoma Onita on Unsplash

Support for geoscientists

Some of these potential stressors are unavoidable for students and professionals, but there are a number of actions that universities and employers can take to mitigate the worst effects and support the mental health of their community. To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, over the next three days we will take an in-depth look at the factors affecting mental health among students and professionals in geology and the field sciences, and what we as a community can do to promote wellbeing.

Help right now

We recognise that geoscientists are under immense amounts of stress right now due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and downturns in many sectors of the geoscience workforce. There are a number of ways that you can find support for yourself or a loved one:

  • Contact your GP
  • Self-referral to talk therapies in England
  • Mind charity
  • Employee Assistance Programme  – In most cases, furloughed employees will be able to access their EAP
  • Samaritans or call 116 123

In an emergency, you can call 999 or visit the nearest A&E department.

Anyone is able to request a welfare check on someone they are concerned about. You can call 999, and will need to know the person’s location.

Finally, some trusts will now allow you to self-refer to a Crisis Response Team. To find out more, call the NHS on 111.

For more information, visit the accessibility section of our diversity resource hub

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