Mental health: seizing the momentum

There has never been a better time for employers to lead from the front on mental health issues, says Mental Health at Work’s Alison Pay

There is no doubt, as a society, we have made huge strides in recent years in raising awareness of mental health and are starting to break down barriers around stigma. In the workplace, we are also seeing change, but the pace is frustratingly slow.

The BITC Mental Health at Work 2018 report, produced in conjunction with Mercer shows some employers have already seized this opportunity. Their commitment to workplace mental health is making a profound difference to their employees and line managers who feel valued and supported in an inclusive organisation. But too many employees still feel that poor mental health will be a blight on their career and prospects. They hide their concerns and suffer in silence, putting their health at greater risk, and making it more unlikely they will fulfil their potential.

Saying ‘we care about mental health’ isn’t enough. Actions speak louder than words. Many leaders make a commitment to mental health at work but fail to ensure that their good intentions translate into genuine engagement at all levels of their organisation. Having a conversation about mental health sounds simple, but if it was easy in the workplace we would be seeing more people able to talk to their manager about their mental health, which currently stands at just 16%. This is not surprising; when only 30% of line managers have taken part in any mental health training, which could begin to give them understanding around the topic and the competence and confidence to begin to manage it. Intentions alone won’t start to make this change; mental health and wellbeing must be about real changes in  attitude and behaviour and be embedded in the organisational culture.

As one of the partners in the BITC report, Mental Health at Work are calling on employers to:

  • Talk – Break the culture of silence that surrounds mental health
  • Train – Invest in basic mental health literacy for all employees, skills training to support line manager capability and Mental Health Allies to provide signposting support and confidential listening across the organisation.
  • Take action – Develop a programme strategy and implement practical actions to bring change across the organisation.

Business is at its best when people are at their best. When people want to work for you because they feel valued and supported, you can recruit and retain the best talent to create winning teams. Thriving at work is a winning formula for us all.

To read the full Mental Health at Work report visit www.mhaw.uk.com

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