Christine Harrington, hospital director of Cardinal Corporate discusses how to address mental health in the workplace.
With approximately one in four people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year, mental wellbeing is becoming an increasingly important topic and due to significant publicity around the issue, people are now feeling more able to talk about the challenges that they face.
However, despite this progress, mental health in the workplace is a subject that both employees and employers remain reluctant to address and unsure how to approach.
Employees often hesitate to speak up as they can be concerned it will affect their long-term career prospects or change how they are treated in the workplace which can exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety. At the same time, employers are nervous about how to speak to the staff member about their mental health issues and uncertain about how to support them.
There are a few simple steps that employers can take to help their staff which will make the issue easier to address and make employees feel more comfortable discussing the challenges that they face.
Firstly, companies need to ensure that they make it clear to their employees that they treat mental health the same way that they treat physical health. This will reassure staff that it’s something that they can feel comfortable talking about openly to their managers.
Companies should also do their best to ensure that managers are trained how to spot the signs of someone experiencing mental health issues which could include changes in behaviour and attitude. Is someone appearing more tired than normal, are they struggling with the workload or are they more withdrawn and less involved in team activities? If a manager is seeing changes in the behaviour of a staff member or is concerned, just start with a simple ‘how are you’. If there is an open door policy toward mental health issues and the employee feels able to open up, the manager could suggest making an appointment with their GP.
Something as simple as arranging to have regular chats to ensure that the staff member feels supported puts their mind at rest that they are being listened to which can have a big impact on someone struggling with their mental health.
Over the past few years we have seen a significant increase in companies looking for support and advice on dealing with their employees’ mental health issues and also in people looking for help in how to address the issue with their managers.
This has led us to introduce three programmes to help employers support their staff and feel comfortable in addressing mental health issues.
Be Well, runs mental health workshops for business leaders and staff; Get Well, offers short residential stays, day sessions and out-patient services for staff dealing with mental health issues and Stay Well, a programme which includes assistance with existing company policies for maintaining mental wellbeing, ensuring alignment with the government mental health strategy and designing and delivering solutions such as resilience, leadership coaching, mental health days and clinical support.
The numbers of people suffering from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are growing, so mental wellbeing now needs to be seen as a priority for employers. Cardinal Corporate has been established to ensure that organisations are able to access advice, help and practical support to help them deal with the mental health issues their staff may be facing and, importantly, to train their staff in developing the skills they need to maintain good mental health.
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