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How good is your work mental health?

Saturday, 6 April 2019

We all have mental health and we all need GOOD mental health in order to be happy and to thrive at home and at work. Despite at least 1 in 4 of us experiencing some kind of mental health problem every year and the growing awareness in the press and our everyday lives, people are still reluctant to discuss it, especially in the work place.

April is Stress Awareness Month. It has been held every April since 1992 to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic. Despite this running for 20 years, there is still a long way to go. According to the Mental health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

Millions of us around the UK are experiencing high levels of stress and it is damaging our health. Stress is one of the great public health challenges of our time, but it still isn’t being taken as seriously as physical health concerns. Stress is a significant factor in mental health problems including anxiety and depression. It is also linked to physical health problems like heart disease, problems with our immune system, insomnia and digestive problems. Individually we need to understand what is causing us personal stress and learn what steps we can take to reduce it for ourselves and those around us.

Stress Awareness Month aims to increase the discussion around stress and its harmful affects by encouraging more people to talk openly about their own issues and to seek the help that they need. The Stress Management Society are publishing a series of blogs, newsletters and campaigns around coping with stress throughout the month.

There is an ever increasing amount of talk in the press about mental heath which is doing a great job of normalising the issues and therefore the conversations surrounding them. Initiatives such as the Heads Together charity spearheaded by the young royals are giving all of us permission to talk about any challenges we may face – their goal is to shine a spotlight on the power of conversation and discuss bereavement, modern childhood, and dealing with trauma in the workplace.

The cost of mental health to UK businesses is not insignificant – an estimated 70 million working days are lost each year due to mental ill health, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year. This includes everything from the most commonly experienced symptoms of stress and anxiety, right through to more complex mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. That is a LOT of lost days and lost revenue that could be significantly reduced if employers increased measures to help those affected.

Good mental health should be a priority for any business, and implementing it needs to involve more than just the HR department. It’s vital to get buy-in from senior leadership and make sure conversations about mental health and well being happen at board level.

Good mental health is vital to business performance, because when staff feel happy and well cared for, they are more engaged, more motivated and more loyal. Who doesn’t want a happy and motivated team?!

For more information about how mental health issues affect the workplace and what as employers you can do about it, read this helpful guide Managing Mental Health in the Workplace from the Mental Health foundation. This guide looks at how to encourage good mental health – by safeguarding staff well being, addressing problems before they become severe, and supporting staff when issues do emerge. It is not about becoming an expert in mental health; it’s about spotting the signs that something might be wrong and giving you the tools to help.

Further reading and guidance about mental health in the workplace:

for employers:

and support for employees: