Article by Rowena Diggle, Into Work Employment Adviser.
Today is World Mental Health Awareness Day, which falls on 10 October each year, and this year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is…
… Mental Health in the Workplace
Chris O’ Sullivan from the Mental Health Foundation states “Mental health is something we all have”. He goes on to say “Workplaces that challenge us, support and develop our sense of purpose, and support us when things are hard can play a massive role in protecting and building our mental health.
A mentally healthy workplace can be built on the back of good basic line management relationships, clear HR policy and engagement of staff in decision making. Prevention is key – we need to enable everyone to flourish, those in distress to access help quickly, and those who have recovered from mental health problems to stay well and enjoy successful careers”. However the bigger picture shows that much more needs to be done to prevent mental ill-health and promote mental well-being in the workplace.
At least 1 in 4 people experience some kind of mental health problem each year, ranging from symptoms of stress and anxiety to more complex mental health conditions. Latest figures show that over 70 million working days in Britain are lost each year due to mental ill health, costing £70-100 billion annually. So it is evident that the impact of poor mental health in the workplace is massive, not only for employees but also for employers, and there is an urgent need to address this.
Evidence shows that although there is an increased understanding of good mental health and the benefits of a mentally healthy work place, it can be difficult to know how to go about taking effective steps to improve workplace mental health. The good news is that there is an ever -increasing availability of good advice and resources for both employers and employees to help promote and achieve more healthy workplaces. Taking steps forward to achieve this may not cost anything, and can be as simple as starting a discussion.
We know that people with mental health conditions can and do pursue successful careers with the right support. People with a mental health problem have the highest ‘want to work’ rate of all disabled groups. I am an Employment Adviser with Into Work, a supported employment charity based in Edinburgh, and we have a great track record of supporting individuals with mental health conditions to find and sustain work. Many people come to us low in confidence. One client, a 21 year old man, who had experienced 5 years of crippling anxiety and depression and had never had paid work, recently started a job and wrote to me to say:
‘It’s going good so far. Learning a lot which is keeping me busy and I’m definitely seeing a major difference in my mental health too! Finally the future is looking good?’ .
His story reflects what is often the experience of the majority of people with mental health conditions – that appropriate employment actively improves mental health and well-being.
At Into Work we recognise the need for key factors to be in place to ensure a successful employment outcome for a client. However as everyone’s experience of a mental health problem is different so is the support that may be needed. For example, not all clients wish to disclose their condition. Managing mental health in a work place effectively involves promoting the well-being of all staff, to prevent stress or poor mental health and also to effectively tackle the causes of work-related mental health problems. For employees experiencing mental health problems, policies on reasonable adjustments can be vital as can appropriate support from a line manager. Links to further resources and guidance are listed below including how to support employees with a mental health condition and rights at work for people with a mental illness.
So, on Mental Health Awareness Day, what can you do to make a difference to promote improved wellbeing in the work place you may belong to? Spend some time becoming better informed. Start a discussion with your colleagues. It only takes small steps to make a difference.
BUSINESS IN THE COMMUNITY:– Mental Health toolkit for Employers A free online toolkit to help employers take positive actions to build a culture that champions good mental health and provides a greater understanding of how to help those who need more support. https://wellbeing.bitc.org.uk/all-resources/toolkits/mental-health-employers
MENTAL HEALTH FOUNDATION:- Managing mental health in the workplace – an e-book looking how to encourage good mental health in the work place https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/managing-mental-health-workplace
TIME TO CHANGE: Creating mentally health workplaces – A report addressing the steps employers can take to create mentally healthy workplaces, based on feedback from employees and national best practice. https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/news/new-report-creating-mentally-healthy-workplaces
DELOITTE CENTRE FOR HEALTH SOLUTIONS: At a tipping point? Workplace mental health and wellbeing (March 2017) A report addressing the importance of mental health in the workplace; the changing environment for workplace wellbeing; the challenges in implementation and in changing employer and employee attitudes and offers solutions to current and future challenges. https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/public-sector/articles/workplace-mental-health-and-wellbeing.html
ACAS: Promoting positive mental health at work:- a report including what you can do to promote positive health at work, the mental health continuum, information on the Equality Act 2010 and Reasonable Adjustments http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/i/o/Promoting_positive_mental_health_at_work(SEPT2014).pdf
GUIDES FOR SUPPORTING AN INDIVIDUAL WITH A MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEM
MIND:’Resource 4 – How to support staff who are experiencing a mental health problem’ . A guide on steps an organisation can take to support staff at every stage of the mental health spectrum https://www.mind.org.uk/media/550657/resource4.pdf
A LINE MANAGER’s RESOURCE: A practical guide to managing and supporting people with mental health problems in the workplace http://www.ncl.ac.uk/hr/assets/documents/mhfa_line_managers_resource1_update_oct_13_jes.pdf
GUIDE TO RIGHTS AT WORK FOR A PERSON WITH A MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION
RETHINK: ‘What’s reasonable at work?’ – A guidance at rights at work for people with a mental illness https://www.rethink.org/resources/w/whats-reasonable-at-work
SCOTTISH CENTRE FOR HEALTHY WORKING LIVES: guidance on mental health advice and a provider of employer mental health awareness training. http://www.healthyworkinglives.com/advice/workplace-health-promotion/mental-health