Mental health in the workplace – advice from the experts

Michelle Harrison
Lead Editor at Bupa UK
21 September 2017

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This article is more than three years old. It reflects the best available evidence at the time of publication.

In the UK, one in four people will experience a mental health problem each year. So whether you work in an office or on a construction site, at a crèche or in a cafe, looking after your mental health is just as important at work as it is at home. And if you’re a manager or team leader, you’ll be responsible for looking after the wellbeing of other employees as well as your own. But a third of line managers say they’d struggle to spot or know what to do if a member of their team had a mental health issue.

This year Bupa took part in the third annual Mental Wealth Festival from City Lit, the UK’s leading provider of short courses for adults.

In partnership with The National Gallery, Beyond Words and Rethink Mental Illness, this year’s festival was held in London over two days, with over 100 different sessions to attend.

To open the festival, a panel of experts, including Bupa UK’s Medical Director Paula Franklin, came together to share their passion and expertise, and discuss the subject of mental health. Here we share their advice for employers, when it comes to looking after mental health in the workplace.

The panelists were:

Mark Malcomson CBE, CEO, City Lit (Chair)

Sir Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Dr Paula Franklin, Medical Director, Bupa UK

Craig Donaldson, CEO, Metro Bank

Paola Barbarino, CEO, Alzheimers Disease International

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind

John Binns, former Deloitte Partner

Dr Ian Drever, Consultant Psychiatrist, Drever Associates

Panelists at the Mental Wealth Festival

Here’s what they had to say:

Have open conversations

Openness around mental health has come a long way in recent years and we’re more open to talking about it than ever before. But there’s still work to be done, so it’s important to keep that conversation going. By encouraging people to talk about mental health in the workplace, you can help shape the culture, attitudes and behaviours towards mental health in your organisation. And by removing the stigma surrounding mental health, you can help your employees to feel comfortable enough to approach you should they need to talk. So don’t be afraid to have those open and honest conversations.

Find out more on talking about mental health

Lead by example

Some people might be afraid to speak up about their mental health problems in fear that it may be seen as a sign of weakness or failure. As an employer, line manager, team leader or colleague, you can set an example for those around you. By colleagues in higher positions sharing their own experiences of mental health, you let others down the line know that it’s OK to be human. By showing that you understand, you may make it easier for them to ask for help and give them the courage to speak up.

Practise empathy

Many of us will have been affected by mental health in some way throughout our lives. Whether it’s a personal experience or someone you know who has been affected. So it’s something we can all relate to. From relationships to families, pressures at work to worries at home – we all have good and bad days, successes and failures in life. So if someone at work is struggling, try to put yourself in their shoes. If you and others adopt this approach, you’ll build an empathetic culture and a sense of community. Your colleagues will know they’re part of an organisation that cares about their wellbeing – no matter what challenges life might throw at them.

Invest in training and education

Early intervention can play an important role in helping someone with a mental health problem in their recovery. So by teaching managers how to spot the signs of mental health problems and how they can help, you can help your employees to get the help they need as soon as possible. Two out of every five line managers now receive training for mental health problems. So take the time to invest in training and education for your employees.

Find out more about spotting the signs of poor mental health

Provide support

Supporting your employees with their mental health doesn’t just mean during the bad times. The term mental health includes both the good and the bad, so support should be ongoing. Think about how you can support your people to be at the top of their game. Letting your employees know what’s available to them, both inside and outside of work, is important.

If someone in your organisation is struggling with their mental health, you may need to make some adjustments for them. Perhaps you need to make some changes to their environment or working hours, ensure they take time off, or facilitate their return to work to help them recover.

Find out more about supporting employees

Our health insurance allows you to skip a GP referral in some cases, and speak to a mental health practitioner. Learn more today.

Michelle Harrison
Michelle Harrison
Lead Editor at Bupa UK

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