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
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
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
- 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.
- 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?
- 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
- 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
- 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