Employers can change the lives of mental health sufferers with these steps

Mental health awareness is growing across Britain but many companies wash their hands of staff woes despite the radical difference they can make

Employers can change the lives of mental health sufferers with these steps

Mental health issues don’t discriminate – anyone can experience them at any time. In fact, it’s just as important as physical health. Although awareness is growing, many still don’t realise the destruction mental health issues can cause. 

Indeed, this particular issue of non-realisation is apparent in workplaces. “We continue to see disconnect between what organisations are doing to support their employees’ mental health and the support staff feel they’re getting,” said Emma Mamo, head of workplace well-being at Mind, the mental health charity. “Employees are more likely to go to work when they’re experiencing poor mental health than with poor physical health. There’s clearly still work to be done to achieve our goal of making mental health part of mainstream business and ensuring it’s a priority for all employers.”

Common triggers of poor work-related mental health are digital overload, challenging interpersonal relationships and high workloads, to name a few. Mind found every year poor mental health costs UK businesses between £33bn and £42bn, equal to £1,205 to £1,560 per employee.

It’s not only damaging to organisations – a declining state of mind can most importantly negatively affect an individual’s sense of self in and out of the office.

Tackling mental health issues head-on must be of paramount importance to businesses. But how? Here are some tips:

Don’t just react – prevent

As well as providing support for staff during and after they’ve experienced a mental health issue, employers must ensure they get adequate help even before one occurs.

If employers don’t intervene during the early stages of mental health decline, not only will it take longer for the employee to recover but they’ll consequently need more time off work. In fact, a study by the University of Sydney found work absence is 5% higher for those with self-identified mental health issues. 

A good preventive measure is setting agenda points at team meetings to talk about mental health and help normalise the topic. Supporting individuals in this way in turn boosts the wellbeing of the wider workforce.

All for one

If someone has the chance to speak about their issues a solution may easily be provided for them. However, it turns out many employers don’t even realise when employees are struggling.

Without a workplace culture embracing discussions about mental health, victims will often suffer in silence and worsen their situation. This leads them to believe they can manage alone and that their issue is small in the grand scheme of things. But the underlying problem always has a way of resurfacing. 

To get rid of the taboo, employers should be aware of pre-existing mental health conditions and give a variety of opportunities for all kinds of individuals to voice their queries freely. Whether speaking to a co-worker, manager or even the head honcho through face-to-face or digital mediums, there should always be a way an individual can speak openly about their mental health.

Regular one-to-one catch ups with managers, for example, can help build relationships and ensure a safe space where employees are comfortable to voice their state of mind. Organisations can also appoint trained mental health first aiders and well-being champions to provide support to those in need.

Spread the word

Anyone can raise awareness about mental health and destroy the stigma by simply not being afraid to speak up about it. By openly discussing the topic in day-to-day conversations it becomes less of a taboo and is no longer seen as a weakness but something to collaboratively address. Moreover, when stories and experiences are shared, people you never suspected as mental health sufferers will finally have the confidence to open up and combat their anxieties. 

This article comes courtesy of the CIPD Festival of Work, a landmark event for both people professionals and business leaders on Wednesday June 12 and Thursday June 13, 2019 at Olympia London 

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