As the evidence demonstrating the lack of mental health provisions across the country mounts, calls have been made upon the government to bring equality to mental and physical health in the workplace in a global first.
This World Mental Health Day (10th Oct), the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England and Norman Lamb MP have joined together to ask the government to provide more support for those with poor mental health.
Currently one in three hundred people in England are trained Mental Health First Aiders, according to the Office for National Statistics, whilst findings from Business in the Community, in collaboration with MHFA England, Mind and others show over three-quarters (77%) of employees have experienced poor mental health.
Employers are talking more about mental health but it’s not translating into action, according to the Mental Health at Work report. Sixty per cent of board members believe their organisation supports people with mental ill health but, nearly half (49%) of employees would not talk to their manager about a mental health issue.
Key recommendations from the report direct employers to invest in first aid training in mental health to help tackle the issue. This recommendation is echoed by large employers, including WHSmith and Unilever, who are supporting the call for Mental Health First Aid to be recognised and adopted by more employers in the same way as physical first aid.
Poppy Jaman, CEO and co-founder of Mental Health First Aid says: “Our workplaces need to undergo a transformation. People are working increasing hours, with less resources, and under more pressure. Millions of employees feel unsupported and employers must act now to retain top talent and boost productivity.”
A NHS Digital report on the prevalence of mental ill health in England revealed record numbers of adults in England experience mental health issues with around one in six adults (17%) living with a common mental disorder.
The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is ‘psychological and mental health first aid for all’ with the aim of making Mental Health First Aid a global priority on a par with physical first aid.
Norman Lamb MP says: “I have campaigned for years for mental health to be treated in exactly the same way as physical health. Every organisation should have trained Mental Health First Aiders just like they have physical first aiders.
“Being trained in Mental Health First Aid encourages people to start talking about mental health and helps to reduce the stigma that unfortunately still surrounds the topic. Mental Health First Aid is a simple step anyone can take to help improve their understanding of mental health and help society as a whole.”
David Price, wellness expert and managing director of Health Assured said that an employee’s mental and emotional health can often go undetected due to it not being as obvious as physical ailments.
Mr. Price highlights how important it is for employers to monitor their employee’s mental health and wellbeing. He said: “This can start with a simple conversation to get a general sense of how employees are feeling, moving onto the implementation of staff satisfaction questionnaires, which cover mental health and wellbeing. Additionally, mental health should also be included in any appraisal or staff feedback process to ensure there is a consistent dialogue between management and their employees.
“Assessing how mental health is discussed at work is also an important part of creating an open culture when it comes to employee mental health and wellbeing. If it is perceived that employers are not taking stock of employee mental health in the workplace, or approach it in a negative light, then employees will not feel comfortable in coming forward with any issues they are facing.”
“Ensuring that you have the right policies in place that are inclusive of mental health is extremely important. This will include any policies that pertain to recruitment, sickness absence, return to work, equality and diversity, as well as health & safety. In line with this, management should be fully equipped, trained and confident in dealing with matters of mental health, by helping employees identify the triggers of stress and anxiety at work, developing a plan of action to help deal with these situations.”
He added: “Stress, depression and anxiety are some of the biggest causes of workplace absenteeism, therefore creating an open culture that highlights the importance of mental health and supports employees who are experiencing wellbeing issues is imperative, not only for the individual, but for the workplace as a whole."