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Talking about Mental Health in the Workplace

The World Health Organisation predicts that depression will be the world’s most common illness by 2030 and suggests the global burden of the condition will be greater than for illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Recent research by YouGov, found that 60% of employees have experienced a mental health problem due to work or where work was a contributing factor at some point in their career. One in four people in England have been diagnosed with a mental health condition in their lifetime. The prevalence of common mental health problems appears to have increased slightly over the last two decades, with the biggest rises in anxiety and depression.

Yet, mental health is still one of the most difficult subjects to talk about at work. Employees feel scared, embarrassed or unable to talk about mental health concerns with their employer.

“Many employers are already creating healthy, inclusive workplaces, but more needs to be done so that employers provide the support needed for employees with mental health conditions”.

Prime Minister Theresa May, January 2017

Last month, the Government published their report, ‘Thriving at Work’, in which it reported that only 11% of employees discussed a recent mental health problem with their line manager, and half of employees said they would not discuss mental health at all with their line manager.

Business in the Community’s second National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey in partnership with YouGov, also revealed that too many men and women with mental health issues are suffering in silence at work, unable to seek help from colleagues or managers. They found that only 58% of employees feel that their line manager is genuinely concerned about their wellbeing. It reports that only a third of 18 to 29 year olds are comfortable talking with their manager about mental health issues compared to almost half of people in their 40s.

The impact of mental health issues on businesses

The UK Mental Health Foundation reports that as well as having a huge impact on individual employees, poor mental health has severe repercussions for employers – including increased staff turnover, sickness absence due to debilitating depression, burnout and exhaustion, decreased motivation and lost productivity.

Research by Mind found that more than one in five people had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them. 14% agreed that they had resigned and 42% had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them.

Mental ill health costs UK employers an estimated £34.9 billion each year - broken down, that's £10.6 billion in sickness absence, £21.2 billion in reduced productivity, and £3.1 billion in replacing staff who leave their jobs for mental health-related reasons (Centre for Mental Health, 2017: Mental health at work: The business costs ten years on).

“Employers have a huge positive role to play in improving the nations mental health and it also makes perfect business sense to keep our colleagues as mentally fit and productive as possible.”

Sir Ian Cheshire, Heads Together

To tackle this and avoid the detrimental impact poor mental health has on both employees and businesses, employers must take action to prevent mental health issues occurring, as well as providing support when they do. Simple steps to improve the management of mental health in the workplace will allow employers to save 30% or more of these potential costs – at least £10 billion a year. The ultimate reward for getting this right is a happier, healthier workforce, and a more successful, high-performing business.

Interestingly, some young people are now asking employers about their mental health policies in the same way they might have asked about their green credentials a decade ago. Hence the importance of how employees are perceived to deal with mental illness is growing, particular amongst the millennial generation, and may become a factor in their consideration of employment opportunities.

Businesses need to act to help their employees and break the taboo

The National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey canvassed managers about their perceptions of mental health, finding that 91% of managers felt that what they do affects the wellbeing of their staff and 84%accepting that employee wellbeing is their responsibility.

“As the stigma around mental health begins to shift, I think the area of mental health in the workplace is becoming much more visible. Employers are recognising that this is an issue, but they don’t know what to do”.

Mind Chief Executive, Paul Farmer, and the mental health campaigner, Dennis Stevenson, authors of The Thriving at Work report Oct 2017

But while companies of all shapes and sizes increasingly understand the importance of good mental health, many simply don’t feel confident handling and communicating these issues in the workplace. Overall, around 4 in10 organisations have policies or systems in place to support employees with common mental health illnesses.

A clear disconnect exists between senior leaders’ vision for workplace mental health and the reality. The Mental Wellbeing Survey found that less than a quarter of managers have received any training in mental health, and 49% of managers canvassed said that they would welcome some specific basic training in mental health.

“Mental health is not just a moral issue, but a business one too. Business leaders must put themselves at the frontier of addressing these challenges.”

Stephen Martin, Director General of the Institute of Directors

Therefore, employers should look for training that provides practical examples, and is tailored to the specific practices of their organisation. Resilience, stress management, and line manager communication training have been shown to be particularly effective.

GBS can train your line managers to become Mental Health First Aid Champions

GBS Corporate Training can work with your managers to give them the tools to keep themselves and their colleagues healthy and to stop preventable health issues arising by building a supportive culture around mental health.

There are three ways that GBS can help:

1. Mental Health First Aid Adult is a new course that has been designed specifically with the workplace in mind. Through a mix of presentations, group discussions and workshop activities, they will gain:

  • An understanding of common mental health issues
  • Knowledge and confidence to advocate for mental health awareness
  • Ability to spot signs of mental ill health
  • Skills to support positive wellbeing

The one-day course is designed for Line Managers and people in the organisation who will become Mental Health First Aid Champions. These champions will help to break the mental health taboo and provide a safe and supportive environment for staff to talk about their concerns and worries about their illnesses.

2. Mental Health First Aid Awareness is a three-hour introductory course which is designed to raise awareness of mental health. It will provide the knowledge and skills to recognise emotional distress and mental health issues quickly and support someone when they are in crisis.

3. Mental Health First Aid is a two-day comprehensive course which will qualify you as a Mental Health First Aider. As a Mental Health First Aider you will gain an in-depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing. It provides the practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues – you will then learn how to help someone recover their health by guiding them towards further support.

All our Mental Health First Aid courses are delivered by a fully accredited Mental Health First Aid trainer and the training can be combined with other courses, such as Resilience and Personal Wellbeing, in order to provide a fully-comprehensive Wellbeing programme.

Friday, 10th November 2017
By, GBS Corporate Training
#MentalHealth #EndTheStigma #LetsTalk @GBSCorporate