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  • Rebekah Few

Mental Health and Workplace Wellbeing

Why Investing in Mental Health Training for Your Team is Important; a little piece I wrote for a fantastic organisation called Think Productive.

It's a well-known fact that organisations must have first aiders, at least one per floor or a recommendation of 1 per 50 employees. Yet as numbers of suicide deaths per year inch closer to that of heart attack deaths, asthma attacks become less common than panic attacks, and food phobias are about as usual as food allergies - why aren't we talking about Mental Health First Aid more?


Even without digging into the morbid statistics, creating mental health awareness within the workplace says; this workplace believes you have a worthwhile story to tell. You are in a safe place to tell it, and we will support you to manage your illness and be here. If team members believe they work within a culture that discourages stress, over-working and presenteeism, they are more likely to be a productivity ninja and know they can say when they need five.


Mental health training within your organisation can be transformative. As with first aid training, mental health training gives employees the tools to keep themselves and their colleagues well. It endorses that seeking help when things aren't ok, is ok. It empowers people with chronic mental health illness to thrive at work. It creates a supportive culture and acts as a preventative step toward preventing mental health issues within the workplace.


Mental health training is a step in workforce transformation that enables the embedment of positive, long term cultural change. Workplaces are uniquely placed concerning the impact they can have in reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness. We spend a large proportion of our life at work and in contact with colleagues, yet most employees do not believe their managers would know what to do when approached about mental illness and most managers agree (1).


This cycle of fear prevents us from speaking up when not ok and asking when someone isn't ok, yet there is no evidence to suggest approaching someone about their wellbeing will make them more unwell or more likely to take their life. Mental health training can provide a safe space and protected time for team members to explore how to ask and what to do if someone is not ok.


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), has introduced the recommendation of a stress risk assessment; this is obligatory if you have over five employees. As part of tackling mental illness, the HSE recommends mental health awareness for the organisation. Such movements are in direct response to the stats around mental ill health in the workplace that continue to grow each year:


  • 1 in 6 workers will experience depression, anxiety or problems relating to stress at any one time (2).

  • In 2018/19, stress, depression or anxiety were responsible for 44% of all cases of work-related ill health and 54% of all working days lost due to health issues in GB (3).

  • 1 in 5 people take a day off due to stress. Yet, 90% of these people cited a different reason for their absence (4).

  • Presenteeism accounts for two times more losses than absences (5).

  • Every year it costs businesses £1,300 per employee whose mental health needs are unsupported (5).

  • People with long-term mental health conditions lose their jobs every year at around double the rate of those without a mental health condition. This equates to 300,000 people – the equivalent of the population of Newcastle or Belfast (6).


These stats are just what we know of and most probably represent the tip of the iceberg.


In a space where we spend much of our time, often in positions that are a portion of how we identify and where the work is a stressor in our stress bucket, organisations can no longer ignore how important it is to be mental health aware. Your mind makes you, you.



References:


  1. Business in the Community. Mental Health at Work 2019: Time To Take Ownership [Internet]. 2019. Available from: wellbeing.bitc.org.uk

  2. McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014 [Internet]. Leeds; 2016. Available from: content.digital.nhs.UK

  3. Health and Safety Executive. Work-related Stress, Depression or Anxiety Statistics in Great Britain 2019 [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2020 Jan 6]. Available from: hse.gov.uk

  4. Mind. Work is the biggest cause of stress in people's lives [Internet]. 2013. Available from: mind.org.uk

  5. Centre for Mental Health. Mental health at work: The business costs ten years on [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2017 Oct 16]. Available from: centreformentalhealth.org.uk

  6. Stevenson D, Farmer P. Thriving at work: The Independent Review of Mental Health and Employers [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2017 Nov 22]. Available from: gov.UK

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