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How to support Mental Health problems in the Workplace

Category: Employer Focus

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Mental health problems cost employers in the UK £29 billion a year through lost production, and absence - so why aren't we doing more about it? The answer is straightforward. Despite the fact that it is very common, many of us suffer mental health problems during our lives and we find it very difficult to talk about. It may be seen as too personal, too deep and too complex to understand. You might feel very happy to tell a colleague about a physical injury you've sustained, but when it comes to your mental health, where do you start?

If you can't talk about it, it may prove equally difficult to listen. Not listening could prove very costly - to the individual and to your business. The Centre for Mental Health charity estimate that employers should be able to cut the cost of mental health in lost production and replacing staff by about a third by improving their management of mental health at work.

“Mental health problems at work are common. Right now 1 in 6 of us is dealing with a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression or stress.” – Mind The Mental Health Charity

Management should create a workplace in promoting autonomy and authenticity for their employees through:

  • Tackling the stigma around mental health – Mental health rarely conforms to stereotypes. For example, you can be diagnosed with a mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder, but have a very positive state of mental health.
  • Focusing on the practical things you can do to help – Some of the factors that influence an individual's mental health, like childhood experiences or family relationships, are out of your control. But you can help by monitoring workload, employee involvement, the physical environment and the nature of relationships at work.
  • Developing solutions by listening – Sometimes all you need to do is help employees to help themselves. An employee may already have coping strategies or medical advice that they can follow, but showing empathy always helps.

“Once the understanding is there, we can all stand up and not be ashamed of ourselves, then it makes the rest of the population realise we are just like them but something extra” Stephen Fry

To realise the potential benefits of mental health awareness, workplace mental health intervention needs to comprehensively:

  1. Protect mental health by reducing work–related risk factors for mental health problems.
  2. Promote mental health by developing the positive aspects of work as well as worker strengths and positive capacities.
  3. Address mental health problems among working people regardless of cause.

Protecting mental health and developing positive aspects in the workplace

Managers should apply strength-based methods to achieve positive outcomes from their employees. Strength-based methods aim to identify and enhance strengths of what is being done well, rather than trying to identify and fix what is ‘wrong’ in an individual, group or organisation.

The application of strengths based methods include:

  • Appreciative inquiry – which involves asking positive questions in order to strengthen positive potential and create change.
  • Future search – which involves working towards an aspirational view of the future.
  • Future inquiry – a hybrid of the two above that acknowledges the views of all relevant stakeholders, generates respect for what has been done well, identifies a shared aspirational view of the future, and plans steps to move in that direction.

Positive outcomes include: subjective wellbeing, psychological capital, positive mental health, employee engagement, and positive organisational attributes such as authentic leadership, supportive workplace culture and workplace social capital.

The promise of positive approaches in the workplace is clearly supported by established knowledge of the substantial positive influences of good quality work on mental health and wellbeing.

Creating a healthy workplace culture and addressing mental health problems

Creating a healthy workplace for people with mental health problems would involve a culture of openness in outlining the organisation's commitment to the health of its employees through a mental health policy. Also, making employees aware that it is safe for them to discuss mental health problems without fear of job loss, harassment or isolation in providing mental health awareness training within the organisation. Managers should also actively support employees experiencing mental health problems at work and where necessary assist their return to work, recognising their work/life balance by showing them trust and respect, in acknowledging that people do have a right to a fulfilled life inside and outside work.

Find out about the charity, Mind here.

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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