“Thanks, but we don’t have any mental health problems in our office – we’d notice.”

Really? Are you sure? Mental health issues affect one in four of us every year and according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) employment rates of people with a mental disorder sit between 55 to 70%.”. So statistically the chances of at least one of your staff experiencing a mental health issue is very high and more than likely your workforce includes people with a diagnosis of mental illness too. So what is it that you’re not noticing…?

Perhaps what you are imagining by mental health is out of synch with what is real or true. Mental health exists on a continuum from health to illness, with mental health issues pushing up towards the middle. Issues are not synonymous with illness, nor do we go to bed healthy and wake up with a mental illness. There is a transitional period. Some of us do have a diagnosis of a mental illness- either way we all move along the same continuum facing issues as we go and, at times, we may be in distress.

Issues and signs of distress are worth paying attention to, especially as an employer. Who wants to be the workplace that has ‘no issues’ simply because the workforce is too afraid to openly discuss them? The recent BITCi survey on Workplace Mental Health found that 62% of employees attributed their symptoms of poor mental health to work. However, 35% had not approached anyone for support during the most recent time they experienced a mental health issue

We all have a state of mental health as well as physical health and, at Maudsley Learning at Work, we believe that both should be treated equally. Most people feel OK having an open discussion about their physical health, mentioning coughs or colds in passing with colleagues or turning to a manager or employer for help when their physical health changes.

Typically, we find that there isn’t the same level of confidence in the workplace when it comes to talking about our mental health and mental health issues. It’s unusual to refer to mental health within day to day business practice. Many employees feel uncomfortable and ill prepared to talk about it, or fear for their job security if they do.

As well as the problem being invisible, the cost to your business may be too – 95%1 of those who have been off work with a mental health issue give an alternative reason. And presenteeism costs – those associated with people at work and underperforming – are double that of absenteeism. The economic cost to the UK industry is between £70 and £100 billion a year.

Maudsley Learning at Work can help line managers and HR staff notice changes in someone’s mental health and confidently start the discussion. We don’t expect managers to diagnose or treat problems, but finding balanced and workable solutions before an issue becomes more serious is an essential first step, as is creating a work environment where an issue can be safely talked about and how help, which is often available either at work or through the NHS, can be accessed with absolutely no stigma. Being able to relate to employees and normalising mental health as an integral part of working life and is a necessary and essential skill- it will help you retain staff and create a better-functioning workplace.  That has to be good news for business.

1Mind, You Gov Poll 2014

i Business in the Community’s National Employee Mental Wellbeing survey is a comprehensive assessment of workplace mental health in the UK. Participants took part via a YouGov panel survey (3,036 respondents) and a public open survey (16,246 respondents). In this report the experiences of thousands of men and women currently in employment are shared, from front line workers to directors and senior managers, specifically leading with the YouGov panel data that is representative of UK employees. Throughout the report reference is made to the open survey as a verification of the panel data – in some cases amplifying and reinforcing it. October 2016

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