Can your team talk about their mental health struggles?

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Around one in six employees is currently dealing with a mental health problem like anxiety, depression or stress.

Your team may well include employees who are finding things hard at the moment, but do they feel comfortable opening up about what they’re going through?

Recent research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that 43% of employees would feel reluctant to tell their employer or manager about their poor mental health. Many said they’d be concerned that it would harm their career or chances of promotion, or lead to discrimination.

Public perception of mental health is changing, especially as high-profile figures have started talking about their own difficulties, but sadly many people still see a stigma attached to admitting that they’re having problems.

Starting a discussion

Through our work at RHL helping clients find technical professionals we know that candidates look for a supportive working culture - and one of the things that contributes to that is when mental health is treated with the same importance as physical health.

One way to try and remove some of the fear from employees opening up about their struggles is to start a company-wide conversation. Consider actions like:

  • Arranging regular one-on-one meetings to give staff a chance to talk privately about any problems they’re having and raise issues early.
  • Providing mental health awareness training and workshops.
  • Training employees to become mental health first aiders to spot the signs of problems.
  • Encouraging leadership to open up about any of their own struggles (as we’ve written before, here, transparency is crucial if you want your employees to trust you).

Helping employees

Whether employees are suffering from depression, stress or anxiety, or have been diagnosed with a less common condition like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, your business will need to have the right systems in place to manage and support anyone who’s not feeling well.

As an employer you’ll know you are legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate an employee’s illness - physical as well as mental – which makes it crucial to have a clear company-wide mental health strategy and individual policies in place. 

Taking action early

The right mental health awareness training means that anyone going through a difficult time is able to get the help and support they need immediately.

That makes it important to be able to spot the signs of mental health issues – and also feel confident to step in and support someone in distress. Talking to employees as soon as you notice they’re struggling can be the first step to help them cope and recover - and prevent the situation escalating for them.

Taking early action is also important so problems don’t get worse. Poor mental health is the most common cause of long-term sickness absence for UK employees and if people don’t get the support they need, the effects can be debilitating (and sadly perhaps even tragic).

Facing a bright future

Supporting employees through difficult times isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s clear that a workforce that is mentally healthy is also more productive, more engaged and better-performing, too.

So if promoting mental wellness in the workplace isn’t at the top of your to-do list, is it time to put it there?

More information

For more advice on how to support staff who are experiencing a mental health problem, see the guide by mental health charity Mind, here.

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