Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health is now the most common cause of sickness absence and is having a significant impact on businesses both large and small, the economy, the family and society as a whole.

Even with the raised profile and openness shown by many famous people we are still not addressing the problems adequately and progress to improve the mental and physical wellbeing is not changing significantly.

The statistics below make depressing reading.

  1. 300,000 people with long-term mental health conditions lose their jobs each year and join a life on benefits.
  2. 1/3 of the workforce will suffer with a mental health condition at some time of their life.
  3. The cost to the economy is estimated at £74-99 billion
  4. The cost to employers is estimated to be £33-42 billion
  5. A large number of people remain undiagnosed and do not seek help.
  6. If Mental Health conditions are treated early, then there is a good chance of recovery and good mental wellbeing in the future.
  7. Mental health suffers still have a fear of prejudice and exclusion in the workplace.

When we are well we are able to live our lives to the full, we have positive relationships in our families and socially, we are engaged at work and have a sense of belonging within our community; we are able to cope with day to day stressors.

However, the statistics indicate that a significant number of individuals struggle with mental health and instead of thriving they do not achieve their full potential.

Employers recognise that supporting mental health is good for their employees and good for business.

Employers are being encouraged to develop a culture within the workplace, which encourages good physical and mental wellbeing with a holistic approach. The recommended standards include

  1. A Mental Health Work Plan and policy shared with all employees.
  2. Tools and support for all employees with mental health issues.
  3. Good working conditions- natural light, good environment, plants/flowers, effective supportive annual appraisal process, regular team meetings and communication
  4. Promotion of effective people management with good training in mental health awareness and leadership
  5. Routine monitoring of Mental Health and wellbeing in the workplace and responding to any negative findings.
  6. Encouragement of physical exercise- walking or cycling to work
  7. Healthy food options in staff canteens
Significant impact

Mental Health issues can have a significant impact on a person’s level of daily functioning. The loss of self-esteem, confidence, concentration and memory can have a negative impact in the workplace, the individual may feel worthless and this will affect all aspects of their lives- relationships, financial management and socialisation. In severe cases it can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.

There is evidence that early intervention and support can minimise the risk of further deterioration and ensure a more successful return to normal health and wellbeing.

Mental health first aiders

The Government has introduced a scheme of MH First Aiders in the workplace. These are employees trained in basic Mental Health first aid, similar to First aiders dealing with physical health issues. The MH first aiders are in a good position to early provide support in the workplace to other colleagues and ensure timely intervention and signposting.

In our practice we have noticed that many employees are referred to an occupational health service after many weeks off work. The employee is likely to have seen the GP and may have started medication but has often not been able to access any talking therapy- either Employee Assistance Programme through a work related program or the service on the NHS. The employee will become more demotivated as time goes by and then will find it even harder to make the changes required for a recovery.

An employee does not need to be 100% fit to return to work and getting back to routine and a supportive work environment can be part of the recovery. By suggesting reasonable adjustments this can make a significant impact and help the employee on their journey back to a healthy wellbeing. Regular meetings with a supportive and understanding line manager can enable the employee to regain confidence and self-esteem. Managing the workload to minimise work stresses and help with prioritising tasks can be beneficial.

An individual care plan with signposting to the various websites, apps, groups and books is usually helpful and sometimes support to engage with these services enables the employee to find the motivation for their recovery.


Working for a Healthier tomorrow Dame Carol Black report 2008

Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers-An independent review of mental health and employers by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer. 2017

Good Work Plan- 2020. following review of UK Employment Framework by Matthew Taylor 2018

Mental Health First Aid England

Mind’s workplace wellbeing index

Mental Health at Work- Toolkit for Employers

Equality Act

Workplace Wellness

Our thanks go to Dr Fiona Tees from Workplace Wellness for this article.

Workplace Wellness provide occupational health advice and services.

Find out more about their services on their website.

Parental Choice works with businesses to support their employees who have childcare or eldercare responsibilities.  We do this through helping them secure long-term dependable childcare or finding care homes for the elderly, all supported with a programme of wellbeing talks and presentations to provide emotional strategies designed to help with the challenges of juggling a family and a career.

We have a programme of webinars to help businesses support their employees through the coronavirus outbreak, check out our full programme.

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