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Mental health training - stay focused on the changes you want to see...

16 May 2018

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By Mandy McBurney, Head of workplace disability services, Remploy

Given the size of the challenge for the modern workplace in maintaining and supporting a mentally healthy workforce, I believe investing in mental health training is definitely a step in the right direction.

Rolling out Mental Health First Aid training or any other such initiatives across your business was justified in the recent Thriving at Work report. The report  highlighted that workplace interventions for mental health showed a return to business of between £1.50 and £9 for every £1 invested, so it makes sense.

Making sense is one thing, but I like to compare the investment into mental health training for businesses, to an individual's personal investment into a healthier lifestyle with more exercise. We know why we are motivated to invest our time into a healthier lifestyle and the specific benefits we want to see for ourselves - improved heart rate/blood pressure, loss of inches, reduced weight, better fitness, to name a few. These are then the things we track on our journey and what we use to tell the story of our success and ongoing motivation at the end. It is individual to us. The same applies for mental health training within an organisation. 

There are key “why’s” that a business has that are individual to that organisation. For example, fewer manager or employee complaints regarding mental health support, improved employee survey scores, more open conversations and reduced absence due to poor mental health. To be able to tell the story of success which continues to motivate the workforce, these core reasons must be considered from the outset and measured along the way. A thorough evaluation of any mental health related training programme, for the short, medium and longer term effect on the business, should be at the forefront of decision making before investment is made. 

We see many businesses rushing into rolling out a training programme and inadvertently produce a tick box exercise which hasn’t delivered real changes to the organisation. A bit like a yo-yo diet if you like, seeing initial improvement, but it has to be revisited for any lasting change. If I lost my inches and ran marathons due to increased fitness I would want to be shouting about how I achieved my success and share my story. Careful consideration of your “why’s” from the start and building those into your approach from the beginning means your business should be able to share the story of positive changes with your senior management teams, your customers and most importantly your staff, building a movement for lasting change and ultimately impact. 

Make sure it’s not a stand alone exercise, but part of your overall organisation approach to mental health and one that you can build upon. This should incorporate senior leadership/ sponsorship, references to your policies and protocols and signposts to your supporting services as a minimum. Working with organisations who can tailor training programme content or as a business building those key messages into your overall programme is important to drive forward real changes. Go further than looking at the quality of training and the positive reaction to a training course. Staying focused on what changes you want to see as a business means you can analyse the correct measures from the outset and truly share the story of investment with your organisation.