Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace

Written by Arnold Hill on October 10, 2018

Mental health awareness in the workplace. We are starting to hear more about this topic. But what exactly does this mean in 2018? Awareness thankfully is going up, and the subject is gaining more press coverage but are employers still properly aware of the problem? And do they know how to tackle this very sensitive subject?

Did you know that 1 in 7 people in the UK is likely to suffer from mental health problems in the workplace? That is a lot of people. It could be anyone from the happy go lucky receptionist or the more introspective accountant; the IT fixer or the sales-person who never seems to be in the office. It could even be the Managing Director or the CEO.

So why, only now is mental health awareness being discussed in the workplace? In a nutshell: stigma. The stigma surrounding mental health is starting to loosen, but much more needs to be done. 1961 was the year Enoch Powell (the then Health Secretary) decreed: “in fifteen year’s time there may well be needed not more than half as many places in hospitals for mental illness as there are today” and government policy shifted more towards care in the community rather than hospital bed care. But still mental health in the workplace could not get past the stiff upper lip. Fear of losing jobs fuelled a resistance to talk openly to line managers, everyone ‘just got on with it’ in that stoic British way.

Yet now in 2018 it seems the stiff upper lip is loosening somewhat. We are starting to talk about mental health more, fuelled by famous names such as Prince Harry and Stephen Fry opening up about their own mental health struggles.

It seems talking is one of the best antidotes. Admitting you are suffering is no longer seen as a sign of weakness, now it is seen as a sign of strength. There can be good days for those afflicted. Days when you just suck it up. And then there are days when you don’t want to talk to anyone, or even get out of bed. Then there are the multitude of conditions attributed to mental health illness: anxiety, bi-polar disorder, depression, schizophrenia. Nobody in the office claims to be an expert, and why should they be? These are all complex issues that need to be treated differently with the right support network and training.

And companies are now following this lead, tackling the issue of mental health full on. Organisations such as Mind are working with employers to try and tackle this problem (after all, it is estimated that better mental health support in the workplace can save UK businesses up to £8 billion per year). Mind offer training courses and seminars in mental health awareness and have been active in promoting Mental Health First Aid training and promoting the Workplace Wellbeing Index.

Sarah, 22 has gained from this new approach. She says: “I started getting panic attacks at works, which led towards depression. Eventually I was signed off work for a month. It was during this time that a representative from my company told me about the new support network in place to cope with mental health issues. This reassurance led me to believe that people do care and want to talk about problems openly in the workplace. They recognised that mental health should be treated the same as other health conditions. Since then, whilst I still get periods of up and down, I am now in a stable place mentally, thanks to the great work of Mind and other organisations”

Talk about your problems to your employer, don’t bottle them up. It’s good to talk. For full details visit: www.mind.org.uk.

 The information in this article is believed to be factually correct at the time of writing and publication, but is not intended to constitute advice.  No liability is accepted for any loss howsoever arising as a result of the contents of this article. Specific advice should be sought before entering into, or refraining from entering into any transaction.