Stress Awareness Month – Paula Power

By Ben Carey on 15 April, 2021

Looking after the mental health of ourselves, our staff and our colleagues is perhaps more important now than ever.

During national Stress Awareness Month this April, The Business Exchange is sharing insights and advice from health and wellbeing experts across our business community.

This week’s article is from qualified mental health first aider Paula Power of My White Dog. Paula delivers mental wellbeing courses within the building and construction, IT, data and aviation sectors.

There’s No Quick Fix When It Comes To Mental Health At Work

Since lockdown it has been a busy and rewarding experience supporting business leaders and staff through the Mental Health Aware and Mental Health First Aid courses.

These create awareness of how to spot signs, reduce stigma, improve mental health literacy and start conversations so employees feel heard and supported. 

In turn this can lead to less absenteeism and as a result have a positive knock-on effect to employee engagement and retention. It also supports a company’s healthy financial performance.

In my experience, one of the biggest surprises for some senior staff, can be the realisation there are no quick fixes.  Mental illness can be complex and less obvious than someone experiencing a physical illness. Recovery can take time. 

The latest statistics show 75 per cent of people with a diagnosable mental illness receive no treatment at all, sometimes as a result of stigma, lack of support or not knowing where to go for help. 

However, one of the greatest early interventions is to create an environment and culture where employees feel heard, through non-judgmental listening which helps to promote recovery.

One of the benefits of training for employees includes improved confidence in spotting the signs in colleagues, and this knowledge/skill has the potential to cascade throughout the organisation.

Here are a few tips and considerations to help develop an intelligent understanding of mental health in the workplace and provide meaningful support: 

  1. Review existing policies: Do you know what percentage of absenteeism is related to mental health illness? Delve into the data so you know your starting point. As far as the human response, please consider how comfortable as a line manager or colleague you would feel to support a peer or employee.
  2. Create a supportive environment: Reviewing mental health practice, do you treat absence due to poor mental health in the same way you would for physical illness? What support mechanisms are in place and are they reviewed? Is support proactive before someone goes on sick leave?
  3. How valued are your staff? Tracking the number of people accessing Employee Assistance Programmes, are staff proactively seeking treatment? On exit interview, do you ask someone leaving your organisation about employee wellbeing?
  4. Create an approachable environment: Do staff know where to access support? Are staff comfortable talking about mental health challenges? Would this be seen or received as a ‘normal and ‘appropriate’ conversation? If not, why not? Increase connection with staff, update practices and ensure senior and line management check in with teams regularly.
  5. Explore existing learning and development plans: Consider the current National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines in line with existing learning and development plans. Take action to fix anything that’s broken in your policies and procedures and set aside a budget to support your staff.

For more general information about stress and wellbeing you can find support and information here

Find out more about Paula Power at My White Dog