Mental Health Awareness and Support in the Workplace

With World Mental Health Day happening today (you can see the Mental Health at Work report here), we at Bridge want to highlight an area close to our hearts, one that has been getting a fair amount of press lately but deserves so much more.

Mental health in the workplace is a pressing issue, with many individuals struggling to keep their heads above water while juggling their day-to-day responsibilities at work.

Did you know that 35% of all sick notes given out are for mental health issues? This is according to a study done earlier this year by the NHS, and it showcases just how dangerous an issue psychological health is becoming in the workplace.

Or were you aware that around 91 million working days are missed annually due to mental ill health, costing the UK an alarming £8.4 billion per year?

The sad truth is that many employees go to lengths to hide their struggles with anxiety and mental illness for fear of facing negative consequences at work, such as disciplinary action, demotions or dismissals.

Shocking Truths About Mental health in the Workplace

recent survey by the charity Business in the Community (BITC), which covered over 3000 employees, focused on the effects of disclosure of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace by employees. Of those individuals who disclosed a mental health issue to their employer, the following dismal findings were determined:

  • 15% who disclosed a mental health issue faced either dismissal, demotion or disciplinary action
  • That’s a 9% increase from last year’s survey, indicating that workplaces are potentially becoming less tolerant of mental health and wellbeing issues in their staff
  • These statistics imply that as many as 1.2 million people in the UK could be penalised for disclosing their mental health status at work
  • The study also showed that while 53% of people were comfortable talking about a mental health condition at work, only 11% of individuals felt at ease talking to a line manager about their struggles

Besides the unethical nature of punishing those seeking help for their mental health and wellbeing, a clear indication is present that suggests workplaces in the UK are grossly undereducated when it comes to mental health in the workforce.

For example, a stigma persists that suggests only certain individuals are prone to mental health illness. In reality, it’s a condition that can strike even the best and brightest individuals. No one is immune.

To mitigate this growing crisis, UK businesses need to take the initiative.

4 Steps to Improving Mental Health Management in the Workplace

1. Educate staff (especially management)

Failing to address mental health in the workplace ultimately leads to decreased productivity, lowered office morale and a knock to the company’s bottom-line. That said, many managers don’t take mental health problems among their team members seriously, either through a lack of understanding or education, or a perpetuation of false stigmas regarding the illness at hand.

Staff and managers should be educated about the true nature of mental illness, how to respond when approached by a co-worker with a mental health condition and how to respond appropriately.

2. Create an open-door policy for employees

Employees should be encouraged to contact their managers and team leaders if facing a mental health illness. It could be a simple as saying “ I’m having a very tough day today, and I wanted you to know in case my work is affected.” Or perhaps even a private meeting in which a manager can be fully informed of the extent of the situation, and further solutions can be discussed.

3. Build in opportunities for staff to improve their mental health during the day

Wellness initiatives in the workplace play an essential role in not only ensuring staff feel respected and cared for but also in aiding and improving mental wellbeing. These efforts might vary, but some ideas might include:

  • Guaranteeing an office space that is well-decorated, has plants in it and is well-lit
  • Providing an area of quiet where staff can decompress or do a quick meditation if need be
  • Setting aside a safe, private space where personal details can be discussed with a mental health officer
  • The enforcing of a confidentiality principle to ensure employees can trust their problems are not discussed throughout the office
  • Occasional office activities like yoga can be scheduled, and employees can be encouraged to practice good office behaviour such as taking regular breaks, stretching often and making time to breathe deeply

These are just a few suggestions, there are much more to consider, depending on your specific business model.

4. Train particular staff members to equip them as mental health officers

We’re all aware of the importance of having health and safety officers present in the workplace environment. But has anyone considered the implications of having mental health and safety officers as well?

We have, which is why we recommend sending a designated staff member for training to equip them to deal efficiently and in a caring manner with an employee facing a developing mental health illness, or struggling with a stressful day.

Bridge’s Mental Health First Aid Courses

We offer an educational course that teaches people to recognise the early signs of mental illness, and how to understand and help a person who may be developing a condition. It’s vital to ensure you have a mental health officer in your workplace, just in case a colleague or someone in the community requires assistance with a mental health concern.

Mental Health First Aid can equip an employee or a concerned member of the public with the necessary skills to assist someone through such an episode.

The tools our training provides will enable you to spot the early signs of a mental health problem and to feel confident in helping someone experiencing a problem and to provide assistance on a first aid basis.

It will also enable you to help prevent someone from hurting themselves or others and to guide the person in crisis towards the right support.

For more information on our Mental Health First Aid courses, feel free to contact us at. Alternatively, have a look at our pocket guide to common mental illnesses and disorders, which are useful for informing yourself of what you may expect to find in a mental illness sufferer.