Mental Health Matters is a monthly newsletter brought to you by Mental Health at Work. You can read thought provoking articles about Mental Health in the Workplace. Look back at our past issues and subscribe to keep update on the latest news.
World Mental Health day on 10th October saw another welcome flurry of activity around workplace mental health and the challenge now is how to harness that awareness and keep the momentum going for the year ahead.
Society is changing in its attitudes to mental health, but within the workplace there is still a sense that progress is too slow. Many companies are saying the right things but we know that employees still fear that an admission of mental health issues will hinder their career.
Changes in attitudes and behaviour around mental health need to be firmly embedded in organisational culture and this will only start to happen when investment is made in training to both educate the workplace and give line managers the skills to be competent and confident in conversations around the subject. This will enable the good intentions to become a reality.
The foundations have been laid, now is the time for action.
‘Stress’. Most of us utter this phrase from time to time. It can be a throw away term to describe a busy day at work or seen on a TV advert to promote relaxation products and often becomes a comparator of how busy or important we are.
It’s not surprising then that this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (May 14-20) is focusing on raising awareness of stress and how to tackle this to improve mental health.
At Mental Health at Work we think that it is very important to be cautious about how we use the word ‘stress’ in the workplace and to equip managers with the questioning and listening skills to probe the real meanings behind this phase for an individual employee.
Last month was Time to Talk Day and we heard wonderful stories of conversations about mental health taking place all over the country; in homes, workplaces and online. But mental health conversations in the workplace can make us feel uncomfortable, many of us are not quite sure what to say, how to approach it or indeed where the boundaries are between helping and balancing business priorities.
Not surprisingly perhaps, when according to the latest BITC Mental Health at Work Report, only 11% had disclosed a mental health condition to a manager and in 15% of cases where the employee disclosed a mental health issue to a line manager, the employee became subject to disciplinary procedures, dismissal or demotion.
For many of us the working year is drawing to a close; we are reflecting on our achievements and maybe some disappointments and setting out our ambitions and objectives for 2018, whilst looking forward to a well deserved break.
But in some industries, particularly Retail and Hospitality, this is the most intense and pressurised month of the year; the one that may determine the success or failure of the business and this, coupled with the out of work pressures of the festive period, can challenge our mental health.
Statistics from the recent YouGov report Mental Health at Work Report, reveal that a staggering 58% of retail workers have experienced mental health problems due to work or where work was a contributing factor. Even more worrying is that 84% have not felt they can discuss these problems with their line manager. There are some simple actions that can be taken right now; just taking a moment to ask colleague if they are ok, then listening to what they have to say. This straightforward question could really make the difference in helping someone manage their mental health at this, or indeed any time of year.
Over 300,000 people lose their jobs EACH year as a result of mental health issues, a figure which is 50% higher than the number for employees with physical health issues. That was one of the stark findings of the Farmer / Stevenson review of mental health and employees published recently. This lack of utilisation of existing talent is costing the UK economy £99bn of which almost half of this cost is borne by employers.
The authors, Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind and Dennis Stevenson, former HBOS chair and mental health campaigner, identify a number of reasons behind these figures, but the root cause is grounded in a lack of understanding and support within workplaces around mental health.
According to YouGov research launched last week, supported by Mental Health at Work and commissioned by BITC, 15% of employees who disclosed mental ill health face dismissal, disciplinary action or demotion. Not only that, 60% of employees say they have experienced mental health issues in the past year because of work, yet the research exposes a vast shortfall in the way that mental health is viewed in the workplace:
- Less than a quarter (24%) of managers have received any training in mental health.
- 35% report not having any workplace facilities or services to support employee mental health and wellbeing.
- Only 11% of people felt able to disclose a mental health issue to their line manager.
Madalyn’s recent viral tweet of her boss’s positive response to her request for a mental health day has certainly got the conversation around mental health absence going, with much debate about how organisations should approach the idea, what policies should be in place and what we should call it.
In reality, this conversation centres around open and trusting relationships at work – presumably Madalyn had previously discussed her mental health with her boss and he had an understanding around mental health and how to manage this within his team. Maybe he was one of the 10% of managers who feel they have had sufficient mental health workplace training and he recognised that this was a preventative step, avoiding both presenteesim and a period of longer term sickness.
All managers have a duty of care towards their staff and understanding their mental health so that it managed is a key part of this responsibility.
There was a noticeable step change in attitudes to mental health during Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 ; the media interest following the Royal’s involvement in the Heads Together campaign was heightened, public figures and personalities spoke in support and organisations all over the country ran workshops, seminars and awareness campaigns to help reduce the stigma around mental health. The impact has been felt across society as awareness is raised, with call’s to Mind’s helpline rising by a staggering 40%.
Many organisations are now asking themselves what is the next step they should take beyond awareness to understand and manage mental health within their organisations, ensuring that the systems and culture supports all employees to thrive with good mental health, complementing support that is already in place for the individuals who may have mental health issues.
We all have mental health; it exists along a continuum from wellness to illness and like physical health it is not always consistent from one day to the next. At Mental Health at Work we think that we should all be aspiring to good mental health, both in the workplace and beyond, with our environments, support structures and individual actions all working together to contribute to this ambition. Good mental health is more than the absence of a mental health issue.
Changes are afoot – media coverage around mental health is becoming more literate and less stigma driven and respected individuals are feeling more comfortable sharing their experiences of managing mental health issues in the workplace – but as the recent Institute of Directors Survey shows, still just 7% of employers have discussed mental health issues with their staff.
At Maudsley Learning at Work we are undergoing some changes and have re-launched as Mental Health at Work. We believe that if we are going to tackle the stigma around mental health we need to be bold and direct in the language we use and being clear, in our name, about what we do in the workplace, is part of that.
We were delighted to support the Time to Talk, #timetotalk day earlier on this month, encouraging everyone to have a conversation which will start to change the way we think and act about mental health. But what happens if you don’t talk about mental health in the workplace?
There is the more obvious impact of the lack of openness that increases presenteeism and impacts on early intervention, which can keep an individual in work. There are also less obvious outcomes. Read more
At Maudsley Learning at Work we were very encouraged that one of Teresa May’s first announcements of 2017 was on mental health Reducing the Stigma Around Mental Health, raising awareness of the issues and some of the steps that can be taken by both government and employers to address this very real concern.
However, focussing the conversation on ‘mental illness’ and ‘crisis’ will only take us so far in reducing the stigma. Read more
The festive period is well and truly upon us. Lights, glitter, parties and presents. Fun, friends and family. It is a wonderful time, but also a time when many of us feel the pressures and stresses of our lives intensify both in the workplaces and in our broader lives. What happens when this pressure turns to distress?
The recent report published by BITC on Mental Health in the Workplace, highlighted that in general men are less confident than women in talking about mental health in the workplace – as employees they are less likely to discuss issues with their manager and as line managers they are less enthusiastic about training in mental health.
Men account for more than 3 times as many suicides as women and the biggest age group at risk is 45-59 year olds. Read more
Earlier in October, we welcomed the report released by Business in the Community on Mental Health at Work. The report confirmed that we have made little progress in addressing the stigma around the issue – despite 77% of employees experiencing poor mental health at some point in their lives, on their most recent occasion only 35% approached anyone for support and only 11% discussed it with their line manager.
Perhaps, what was more surprising was the disconnect between board members, 60% of whom believe that their organisation supports employees with mental health issues and 40% of junior managers who believe this to be the case. Read more
30% of employees would consider leaving their job if they didn’t feel cared for by their employer1
Taking care of your people is at the heart of creating a great place to work, where people are appreciated, engaged, productive and thriving. Where they actually want to work. At Maudsley Learning at Work we are seeing progressive employers considering their employees mental wellbeing in addition to their physical health. Providing training to your employees to help them understand, manage and promote mental health as part of a healthy, stigma-free workplace will improve employee engagement, productivity and ultimately benefit the bottom line. Read more
Latest research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development shows that 1 in 3 people have experienced a mental health issue while in employment. 40% of long term absence amongst non-manual workers is caused by stress or mental illness1, 38% of employees said that they found it difficult to talk to anyone about their mental health2
Compelling enough reasons to invest in mental health training for line managers? Read more
Since the beginning of 2016, Maudsley Learning at Work have had over 3,000 conversations about mental health at work with organisations across the UK. We have spoken to C-suite executives, HR managers, partners, health and safety executives, operations managers and the feedback has been consistent, whether you are working in a large corporation like one of our blue chip clients such as Charles Russell Speechlys or a smaller organisation, mental health does matter! Read more