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Mental Health and Employment: What’s the Issue?

Category: Blogger's Corner, Mental Health, Health, Social and Wellbeing committee, Employee

Mental Health and Employment: What’s the Issue?

Venn Group’s Lily Grouse looks at the issues surrounding mental health and employment and talks to Tracey Douthwaite at the Social Enterprise Employment Company about Workplace Wellbeing 

As one of Venn Group’s specialist Healthcare Consultants, I spend most of my time talking to people about their working lives. My colleagues and I are perfectly placed to be able to ensure that our candidates are happy in their roles and, if they’re not, it’s our duty to work towards a resolution.

Strangely, despite the fact that “1 in 4 people experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year” (Mental Health Foundation) I very rarely speak to people who openly talk about an experience of this nature. Comparing this void with the numerous occasions on which I’m told about physical ailments, like colds or stomach bugs, draws attention to how differently we perceive and deal with issues surrounding mental illness. It begs the question:  Why are we less inclined to disclose information of this nature?

The reasons for this are inherently connected to a social perception of the “mentally ill” as weak or unstable. Unwillingness to discuss personal experiences of mental health problems can be attributed to the fear of being branded with these labels; nobody wants to seem weak and the idea of being deemed so, is embarrassing.

What happens when you attach this stigma to a physical affliction? Imagine if someone were to suffer an isolated incident and injure their leg. On recognising that they’re in pain, they decide not to tell anybody for fear of being perceived as fragile. Instead, they continue to walk on the affected limb without seeking medical help, in line with the belief that they should be able to simply ‘get over it’.

We all know that this is an irresponsible way to deal with a physical injury and the fact that this kind of action could to lead to long term damage comes as no surprise – it’s widely accepted that physical health needs to be attended to. Mental health requires just as much attention and, although huge advancements in public perception have been made in recent years, there’s still a long way to go in terms of action and funding.

Part of the fear of confronting mental health issues on a personal level comes from the fact that an individual’s livelihood or job is perceived as potentially being at stake. This fear can prevent people from reaching a solution. To address mental illness in the work place takes two kinds of action: preventative, in the form of ensuring employee wellbeing; and supportive, to assist anyone seeking recovery.

I recently met with Tracy Douthwaite, Operations Manager at SEEC (Social Enterprise Employment Company).

“SEEC works on the principle that recovery is achievable for all and the right employment can be a key principle in the recovery journey.” – seectruepotential.org.uk

In 2012, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust seed-funded SEEC as a way of ensuring that their clients would have a support system for easing themselves back into employment during and after using their mental health services. Employment is regarded as part of their recovery plan. Today, they still work in close partnership and the company is managed by Twining Enterprise, a specialist charity that supports wellbeing through work. They also receive governmental funding from the Department for Work and Pensions to support clients re-engaging with work following mental health issues.

“We receive referrals from Job Centre Plus and Oxleas, so if anyone has a connection with the trust we can work with them; we also encourage people to self-refer by ringing the office and talking to any member of the team as an initial point of contact”, says Tracy.

The company is now able to support any resident in the London boroughs of Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley. The success and growth the company has experienced indicates that there is a real need for services of this nature. Tracy went on to explain those crucial first steps:

“The first meeting is to get to know each other; we’re then able to ascertain their goals and aim, if they have one. For a lot of people, that’s actually a terrifying question – sometimes they perceive that as the problem in the first place: not knowing what to do. So, over the next few meetings – depending on the person – we do career tests and look at different options to expand their horizons.”

Tracy and her dedicated team are primarily focussed on ensuring that their candidates are in the right mind set to feel comfortable with getting back into work. Once this stage has been reached, they are able to facilitate the practical steps towards securing a job.

“We explore how to produce a really strong CV or cover letter, how to job search, where to look for work, building links on social media and networking. We can also assist by conducting practice interviews; we’ll invest time researching the role they’ve applied for and will have acquired a copy of the job description so that we can produce some realistic questions based on that job. It’s all about building up resilience and confidence.”

As well as being able to assist people themselves, SEEC have been invited to refer people to Venn Group in order to take their job hunt a step further.

On referral, those candidates will be able to discuss their short and long-term career goals with a recruitment consultant at Venn Group who specialises in the sector of interest. As the UK’s only company dedicated to the provision of contract staff to organisations in both the private and public sectors, we have built a reputation of quality and professionalism amongst the clients we work with and the candidates we place.

The fact that SEEC are able to offer this referral on top of their services is a fantastic opportunity for those who are ready to resume work. SEEC are one of the first companies of their kind and it’s wonderful to witness such good social enterprises gaining momentum and support. Their services significantly help to create equality of care for physical and mental health.  Meanwhile Venn Group are committed to ensuring that we’re doing what we can to promote such important work.

In the forthcoming weeks, I’ll be writing about workplace wellbeing and how employers and employees can prevent mental health issues from escalating. Charities SANE and Mind are pioneers in this field and I will be exploring their advice in this area as well as examining the ways in which you can identify and address a range of stressful scenarios in your working life.

If you would like to learn more about SEEC, or enquire about seeking their assistance, please visit www.seectruepotential.org.uk or call 0208 302 0775.

Vercida works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with Vercida to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please call 02037405973 or email info@vercida.com for more information.

We are also officially recommended by Disability Confident as a step on achieving Employer status, please click here for more information.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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