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by GK Strategy 16th May, 2018
3 min read

The Importance of Mental Health Awareness at Work

Work is currently the most stressful aspect of people’s lives, according to a poll carried out by Mind. Employers must therefore become more responsible in helping to tackle mental health related issues. The Government’s ‘Thriving at Work’ report 2017also explored mental health in the workplace, and stressed an urgent need for more to be done by employers.

Wellbeing in the workplace is pacing the agenda of business, government and the general society, and to take this issue seriously is not only the right thing to do from an ethical perspective, but it can also result in economic benefits.

Mental health issues (including stress, depression, anxiety and other conditions) were one of the main reasons for sickness absence, resulting in 15.8 million days lost in 2016.  Furthermore, research by London Business School demonstrates that companies with high levels of wellbeing outperformed the stock market by 2% to 3% per year over a 25-year period.

Staff turnover and presentism also costs businesses approximately £42bn a year. Another study by Mind shows that 60 per centof employees feel more motivated if their employer showed support for their wellbeing. With direct links to sickness absence, staff turnover and presentism, there is a strong incentive for businesses to improve their staff retention and morale. Why then are corporations in the UK behind in doing this?

Negative perceptions and stigma around mental health are the biggest obstacles to uncovering these issues. An overwhelming majority of employees are scared of discussing mental health at work, with 85 per cent of workers concerned that there is a stigma attached to openly admitting mental health issues in the workplace.

In order to send out the clear message that mental health matters, businesses and corporations of all kinds must champion mental health awareness from the top down. This is the only way to eradicate any sort of stigma around mental health issues, and will help to normalise and support discussion and awareness.

Mental health experts state that, at present, help is lacking in the workplace and the only way of tackling this is to train and upskill managers and members of the company in charge of line management, so that they are able to identify early signs of mental health issues.

Early intervention can significantly help the situation from worsening – managers do not need to be experts in mental health, but they should be able to identify and offer the right support when their colleagues are struggling.

Society as a whole would significantly benefit from early identification and evidence–based interventions, which could help people before their illnesses deteriorate and, in turn, become more difficult to deal with.

It cannot be stressed enough how helping your staff deal with work pressures has a direct impact on employee’s ability to perform at higher standards – and also makes moral and business sense. Simple things like discouraging working late and on weekends can all help in minimising mental stress.

A work culture that focuses on staff’s health and wellbeing will ultimately result in better morale and loyalty, increased productivity and improve a business’s bottom line.

I am proud that I am part of a company that is taking the right actions through generously contributing to our training budget to allow for managers to undertake ‘Mental Health Awareness Training’. The training involves ‘Learning about the signs and symptoms of specific illnesses like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders’, and is provided by St John’s Ambulance.

Mental Health really does matter, take care of yourself and your staff.

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