Mental health: tackling it in the workplace!


Research by the mental health charity MIND indicates that a culture of fear and silence around mental health is costly to employers. With more than one in five working adults experiencing difficulties caused by their mental health in any given year every organization is likely to be affected.

The 2011 Department of Health mental health outcome strategy "No Health Without Mental Health" stated that "mental ill health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK, contributing up to 22.8% of the total burden, compared to 15.9% for cancer and 16.2% for cardiovascular disease".

Despite a more positive attitude towards mental ill-health in recent years, stigma around the topic remains. 48% of people say they would not feel comfortable talking to their employer about mental health problems (National Attitudes to Mental Illness Survey 2014). As a cause of sickness absence, mental health has overtaken musculo-skeletal disorders and is estimated to cost business £1032 per employee per year (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). According to the 2015 CIPD survey on sickness absence, those who meet their sickness absence targets were actively supporting the health and well-being of their workforce.

NICE indicate that in a company of 1000 employees, mental ill-health loses an organisation £835,000pa. A saving of £250,000 (30%) per year could be made if prevention or early identification of problems were tackled. Compared to savings on tackling obesity or smoking in the workplace where companies could save £126,000 and £128,000 respectively it is clear that tackling poor mental well-being needs to be regarded as equally if not more important to any business.

The most successful organisations will have/ be aiming to have a mental health and wellbeing strategy. The "process" adopted to implement such a strategy will make a huge difference to its success, with involvement of the wider workforce and communication being crucial. Use of the WHO's healthy workplace model (Burton 2010) offers guidance on how to get started. The WHO recommends:

Tackling mental health in the workplace needs to be seen in the wider context of a wellbeing strategy. The following actions can support such a strategy and whilst some may offer a "quick-win" it should be made clear that as "stand-alone" actions they are likely to have less impact on the success of a business.

Other considerations:

Mindshift Consultancy can support your business in dealing with mental health.

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