Q: I want to ensure that mental health is taken seriously within the workplace, but I am unsure of how to achieve this. How can I educate my employees regarding positive mental health at work?
A: One in four experience a mental health problem in any year. Despite mental health concerns being this common, there is, sadly, still a stigma attached. Nine out of 10 people experience some kind of discrimination in relation to mental health, one in five take a day off work due to stress, and one in 10 employees have resigned as a result of feeling unsupported with a mental health condition.
Considering these statistics, it is imperative that employers work hard to take action and break down the stigma associated with mental health in their work environments.
Stigma is classified as negative judgements, opinions, comments and assumptions made by others, and discrimination can take many forms, such as bullying, intimidation, unreasonable demands, exclusion and many more.
The key to stopping stigmatisation in the workplace is by getting people talking about mental health in the workplace so that it becomes a part of life and no longer a taboo subject.
As an employer you should aim to educate both yourself and your team. The more knowledge you provide to your employees and managers, the less powerful the stigma becomes. Educate staff on what mental illness is, how to notice the signs and what support can be given to employees. Create an open culture with empathy and understanding as key.
Encourage staff to speak up if they witness or overhear comments regarding mental health in order to counteract such negativity within the workplace. Raise awareness by creating a comprehensive health and well-being programme for all staff. This could include workshops to implement policies which are inclusive of mental health.
Ensure that mental health is promoted as much as physical health. Share resources, articles, and blogs, and signpost employees to any available support. Provide education on company noticeboards or the company website so it can be accessed in confidence.
Consider having an Employee Assistance Programme which can be available to support employees in distress, while also ensuring this is widely promoted to staff and available to managers to educate staff.
Think about how stress and mental health is talked about in the workplace, promoting open discussion. Look at what is implemented in the workplace to ensure staff are able to have a good work/life balance.
Overall, the key to reducing stigma is to work towards encouraging an open environment where mental health and stress can be spoken about and with the right resources in place to support employees if they experience it.
David Price is managing director of Health Assured