Mental Health Awareness Day

Thursday 10th October 2019

Today is Mental Health Awareness Day and, in case you weren’t aware, its goal is to help raise mental health awareness. Each of us can make a contribution to ensure that people dealing with problems concerning mental health can live better lives with dignity.

The theme this year is suicide and suicide prevention. Not the easiest topic to talk about but it’s highly likely that you will know someone who has died or is bereaved through suicide.  I have seen the devastation that bereavement through suicide, can cause to the families, friends and work colleagues of the individual who has died.

Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people aged 20-34 years in the UK and it is considerably higher in men, with around three times as many men dying as a result of suicide compared to women. It is, further, the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK.

The Problem

Every year one adult in four, along with one child in ten, will have a mental health issue. These conditions can profoundly affect literally millions of lives, affecting the capability of these individuals to make it through the day, to sustain relationships, and to maintain work. We see the effects of poor mental health in many of the organisations that we work with. Stress and Anxiety is one of the top 5 reasons for absence in workplaces. As this chart shows it’s the second cause of short term and top reason for long term absence

The Stigma

The stigma attached to mental health causes a damaging, albeit ill-informed, attitude, making it more difficult for those affected to pursue help. According to UK estimates, only about one-fourth of those with mental health problems undergo ongoing treatment. By stark contrast, the vast majority of those affected with these problems are faced with a variety of issues, ranging from isolation to uncertainty on where to get help or information, to relying on the informal support of family, friends or colleagues.

Organisational Strategies for Improving Mental Health in the Workplace

The World Mental Health Day, encourages everyone to consider how they can create learning opportunities for all your staff raise their overall level of understanding of mental health, and specifically address the stigma around suicide so as to support those who might most need help.

This pack provides some excellent information on activities that organisations can use to support their staff and raise awareness at work. There are also some useful posters to raise awareness that you can download and display in your workplace.

Line Manager Responsibilities – Manage Short Term and Long Term Absence

Ensure managers are trained to be able to deal with absence management and track all absences and carrying out return to work interviews for every absence

This will ensure that you have an opportunity to find out if there are any issues. A tummy bug or a migraine may actually be a symptom of something else that you aren’t aware of. There may be family or mental health problems and only by providing a confidential opportunity to talk the staff member they are more likely to open up.

Cloud based HR systems are an excellent way to track and monitor absence and ensure that managers get on top of any issues quickly.

This toolkit by Mind is useful to help manage workplace absence.

Mental Health Related Absence

In mental health-related absence, the longer a person is away, the less likely they are to return. Early and appropriate contact can make returning easier. If you require a medical certificate from a doctor, you will get a ‘statement of fitness to work’ (a fit note) from the GP.

You may need to make reasonable adjustments and a rehabilitation programme, ask for advice from a HR or Occupational Health Specialist if you are unsure what is classed as reasonable. There will also the ongoing responsibilities that you will need to consider.

Raising Awareness – Training & Development of your Staff

The best way to deal with the mental health stigma is through facts and a better understanding of mental health problems. From identifying the causes, pinpointing solutions, and ultimately recognising that we are really dealing with medical issues. Some companies have mental health first aiders and there are a number of great organisations that deliver this training which we can put you in touch with.

Workplace Wellness Programme

You may consider a programme that encourages staff to look after their physical and mental health. Talk to the staff around what programmes they would like to see and you may wish to nominate champions who collate staff feedback to senior management.

This website created by Mind, provides excellent advice and toolkits that organisations can use.

Encourage and Support others who are affected mental health condition

Colleagues may need your support on an ongoing basis – don’t assume that they need special treatment but equally don’t assume that everything is fine just because some time has passed:

  • Check in with colleagues informally in the office to see how they are doing, and, if you manage someone, offer them the chance to discuss their mental health at supervision sessions.
  • You could offer to be a mentor or coach, or just a friendly support on an ongoing basis.
  • You can ask if there’s anything you can do to support a person to manage their condition. They might, for example, ask you to help them spot signs that they may miss that indicate that they may be becoming unwell.

This guide from the mental health foundation provides excellent information on how line managers can support staff.

Lastly if you feel that you need some further advice or support with putting some strategies in place please feel free to talk to us 0330 120 0638. Info@ashtonpeoplesolutions.co.uk

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