Changing attitudes to mental health in the workplace

04 March 2019

Work is a huge part of our lives. Most of us spend many hours of the week doing our jobs, and some weeks we may see our colleagues more than our families. So as an employer, manager or team leader, it’s vital that your team are healthy and happy in the workplace – both physically and mentally.

Mental health awareness in the workplace

Mental health problems are all too common in the workplace and a leading cause of sickness absence1 , with one in six people experiencing a common mental health problem in any given week2. Everyone’s experience of mental health is different and can change at different times too. Because of this, it’s important to send a clear message to all employees that their mental health matters and that being open about it will lead to support. Placing a greater emphasis on mental health awareness in the workplace doesn’t have to be difficult either. There are lots of simple and proactive steps you can take to create a more open and supportive culture.

Mental health stigma in the workplace

We all have times when we feel down, stressed or worried. Most of the time those feelings pass, but sometimes they may develop into a mental health problem like anxiety or depression, and this can take its toll on our day-to-day lives. For many people, work can be a highly stressful environment and this can worsen or exacerbate their mental health. As an employer, manager or team leader, it’s important that your team feel comfortable and supported enough to speak up about any mental health problems they’re facing. Unfortunately, not everyone understands mental health problems and this can create a stigma or discrimination in the workplace. Some people may have misconceptions about mental health or use language that is hurtful or offensive towards those struggling. 38% of Brits fear revealing a mental health problem at work would jeopardise their career3.

Fortunately, there are ways you can reduce mental health stigma in the workplace. Creating a culture where people can talk openly about their mental health can help, as this leads to more understanding and a greater likelihood that people will seek support earlier. Too often employees are scared to tell their manager about a mental health problem, so providing managers with training to support staff can help the whole team feel more confident about discussing their feelings. Offering mental health support for everyone in the workplace can help too – regardless of your business size. It’s also important to treat mental health in the same way as physical health.

Supporting mental health in the workplace

Creating a more open and supportive culture for mental health in the workplace doesn’t have to difficult. Here are some simple steps to take for your business:

Lead by example

As an employer, team leader or manager, you can set an example in the workplace and share your own experiences of mental health. Talking openly and encouraging those around you to speak about their personal experiences can help shape the attitude and behavior towards mental health in your workplace.

Create clear mental health policies

Employers have specific legal obligations to protect staff from discrimination4, so make sure that mental health is considered in your workplace policies, such as health and safety and sickness absence. Think about how you can support your team on an ongoing basis too and let everyone know what’s available to them, both inside and outside of work.

Provide mental health support

This can help send a clear message that everyone’s mental health in the workplace matters and creates a more open and supportive culture. For example, if someone in your team is struggling with their mental health, you may need to make specific adjustments for them, as everyone’s experience of mental health is different.

References

  • 1. Sickness absence in the UK labour market: 2018. Office for National Statistics. www.ons.gov.uk, published November 2019
  • 2. How common are mental health problems? Mental health facts and statistics, Mind. www.mind.org.uk, accessed February 2020
  • 3. Mental Health Foundation. mentalhealth.org.uk, published October 2017
  • 4. Discrimination at work. Mind. www.mind.org.uk, accessed February 2020

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