Looking after women’s emotional health in the workplace

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Emma Persand is a registered nurse with a background in Occupational Health and Wellbeing and founder of Working with the Menopause.

Emma delivers education on the menopause transition to all employees and training on duty of care, managing employees and working conditions to employers. She also delivers group cognitive behavioural therapy sessions to women suffering from physical and psychological symptoms brought on by the menopause transition. Emma shares her fascinating work on the use of CBT in the workplace, below!

 
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I was steered down this path out of frustration because there appeared to be mixed and varied information and support available for women suffering from symptoms arising from a decline in sex hormones, characterised as the menopause transition or perimenopause. This, combined with limited awareness in the workplace, meant I was witnessing some women being perceived as underperforming and at worst leaving their role. I started seeing more and more women over the age of 40 experiencing symptoms of work-related stress. Many of these women were also having extremely varied outcomes when consulting with their GPs.

The timing of midlife stressors when women are juggling a job with childcare and elder care combined with domestic and financial responsibilities means that women and health care professionals are more likely to attribute some of the psychological and emotional symptoms to stress rather than perimenopause oestrogen decline. Therefore, women did not access or were not offered correct evidenced based information, treatment and support. Continuing statistics from the British Labour Force surveys highlight that women between the ages of 45-54 years report the highest incidences of work-related stress.

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The society we live in and the culture we have been brought up with influences a menopause experience. This includes the workplace which generally does not cater for gender specific health issues other than pregnancy.

Lack of the sex hormones causes varied experiences and increases health risks influenced not just by the body’s physiological changes (at any age) but also ethnic and trans gender considerations, as well as our own cultural attitudes. Symptoms of oestrogen decline can also be severe prematurely; after certain treatments for example breast cancer or due to a surgical induced menopause following a hysterectomy. These women need support and understanding at work.

The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, called on employers to create a culture where women feel comfortable discussing the menopause to promote an inclusive workplace. The government’s report in 2017 into the economic impact of the menopause reinforced this message. It found that the menopause transition can affect work and that the workplace can affect the menopause experience.

I attended courses organised by the British Menopause Society for health care professionals and completed their Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) course, specifically for menopause management, under Dr Melanie Smith, a Chartered Clinical Psychologist. Dr Smith, along with Professor Hunter, conducted the MENOS trials, the first randomised controlled trials of CBT for menopause symptoms for well women and breast cancer patients. I was particularly interested in the relationship between the body’s response to stress and the severity of hot flushes and emotional wellbeing.

Results from the trial of women who used the CBT intervention found reduced severity of some symptoms in 87% of participants and resulted in 37% gaining the confidence to discuss their menopausal transition with their manager. It was also shown to reduce the impact of hot flushes on daily life as well as reducing the frequency of night sweats with broader benefits for mood, sleep and quality of life. This CBT intervention is recommended in the NICE guidelines and endorsed by the North American and British Menopause Society..

Dr Smith and I decided to combine our expertise in CBT and workplace health providing solutions to both businesses and women. Working with the Menopause is an initiative to normalise the menopausal transition through education, training and CBT intervention helping women and their workplaces understand the broad range of factors that influence the overall experience. Women develop their own knowledge and coping skills to enable them to manage the physical symptoms as well as the psychological aspects of the transition while businesses are equipped to support their female employees and help them thrive.

The CBT intervention is available via our group sessions, privately or within the workplace found at workingwiththemenopause.co.uk.

Alternatively, Professor Hunter and Dr Smith have developed a self-help guide: ‘Managing Hot Flushes and Night Sweats’ via Routledge publishers.

Emma Persand, October 2019

We’re delighted that Emma Persand will be speaking at our Feelgood Fair, Manchester on Saturday 5th October 2019.

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