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I take my role as Mental Health First aider seriously at Studio 24. It’s so important to me that we create a safe, supportive and inclusive workplace, where all of our team feel truly valued. This isn’t a ‘nice to have’, to me it’s critical and to work somewhere that fully embraces this is really inspiring.

Recently I’ve been reflecting on conversations I’ve had with friends outside of work, along with colleagues about women’s health. From a personal perspective (now I’m getting older), I’ve had a few things that I’ve had to deal with health-wise over the last year or so.

Which leads me to the perimenopause and menopause.

The Studio 24 team pose for a group photo in the office. Four women and two men are seated in the front row. Four women and five men are standing behind them. Everyone is smiling.
The wonderful team at Studio 24

So what is the perimenopause and menopause?

The menopause is when the ovaries stop producing eggs and the production of the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone fluctuates and then falls.

Medically, the menopause is defined as the point in time when there hasn’t been a period for more than 12 consecutive months. On average in the UK this is at age 51.

The perimenopause is the time leading up to this when hormones fluctuate and start falling. The perimenopause can last for years and most commonly affects people during their 40s. It can affect women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, as well as trans men and some non-binary people.

The menopause affects everyone indirectly as you will most likely live with, love, and work with people going through the menopause at some point in your life.

There are currently 34 known symptoms of menopause including headaches, migraine, joint & muscle pain, tinnitus, palpitations, dry skin, dry mouth & eyes, hair loss, hot flushes & night sweats, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, brain fog, memory lapses, paranoia, intrusive thoughts, mental fatigue, low confidence, and panic attacks. Symptoms can last between 4 and 8 years.

Having spoken to a number of friends and having experienced some of these symptoms myself, I’ve spent some time researching and educating myself, trying to understand as much as I can. I wanted to do this with the aim of being able to support people at work who might be going through this.

What I found was jaw-dropping…

Infographic presenting key facts and statistics about the menopause
Infographic presenting key facts and statistics about the menopause

I first watched the Channel 4 documentary ‘Davina McCall: Sex, Mind and the Menopause‘ (if you haven’t seen it, please watch it!). I couldn’t believe that this affects over 50% of the population but isn’t compulsory for doctors to study as part of their training.

Davina McCall stands with her arms crossed. She isn't smiling.

I wanted to learn more, so I attended Spring Into Menopause: Reframing Women’s Health 2023, organised by the fabulous Pat Duckworth. The day was full of speakers covering a range of topics including wellbeing, mindfulness, diet, and exercise.

Some key facts which stuck with me included:

  • 75–80% of menopausal-aged women are in work, and it’s estimated that 14 million days a year are lost due to time off because of menopausal symptoms
  • 90% of people found their peri/menopause had a negative impact on their work
  • 1 in 3 will consider reducing hours or leaving work due to their symptoms
  • only 22% of employees have spoken about menopause in their workplace. The majority of women are unwilling to disclose menopause-related health problems to line managers, most of whom are men or younger than them.

This is huge, and it made me realise that support needs to be in place to support people going through this period in their lives. As an agency, we offer support for mental health and illness, and the same needs to be true for those experiencing menopausal symptoms.

So what have we done at Studio 24?

  • We’ve written a menopause policy and guidance for our team
  • I’ve carried out training for all staff and managers to raise awareness and to ensure everyone knows the support we can provide
  • Ensured our existing flexible working policy and workplace adjustments help people based on their individual needs
  • Signed up to the Menopause Workplace Pledge

There’s still much I want to do and I am looking at starting a support group for the team, where we can share knowledge and support each other; working towards becoming an accredited ‘Menopause Friendly Employer’; and introducing access across our team to some of the amazing resources available online including a digital health app.