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Who is responsible for mental wellbeing in your workplace?

24 Aug 2020

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Who’s responsible for mental wellbeing in your workplace? Not everyone will know the answer to this question. If asked, many employees will probably point towards the HR manager’s desk.

In fact, everyone in the workforce shares a responsibility for mental wellbeing.

Recently, the Health and Safety Executive have focused on mental health, examining factors affecting wellbeing and performance at work – which are interconnected. They too have recognised that mental health is as important as physical health in the workplace – both in terms of their impact on individual health and business performance. The estimated annual cost of poor mental health to the UK economy is between £74 and £99 billion, affecting workplaces throughout the country.

Every business has a responsibility to promote mental wellbeing in the workplace. This can be done by developing a wellbeing strategy, introducing anti-bullying policies, providing mental health information and promoting mental health initiatives. Employee assistance programmes can be provided, together with training for managers and occupational health support.

Business leaders have a role to play, too. Managers should be approachable and available, acting quickly in cases of conflict and bullying, holding regular 1 to1s and distributing workload fairly. They have the ability to lead by example and create a positive culture - by taking lunch breaks and demonstrating a good work/life balance.

Promoting a cultural change in the workplace around mental health can be as simple as talking positively about the subject, and sharing our own stories and experiences. This will help to normalise mental health as a topic for discussion.

It’s also important for employees to challenge negative comments or inappropriate jokes and language, which will encourage others to share their feelings.

Start conversations and ask how others are doing – especially if you have noticed a change in their behaviour. This isn’t always easy, but letting colleagues know you are there for them can make a real difference. Try to listen non-judgementally, and react, rather than leading the conversation. Show warmth and be supportive – but encourage the individual to seek professional help rather than trying to solve their problems yourself.

This advice is applicable for mild symptoms, and while we can’t cover how to respond in a mental health crisis here, the Mental Health First Aid course is designed specifically for this purpose.

It’s a 15-hour programme designed to give you the knowledge, confidence and practical skills to identify and deal appropriately with someone who is experiencing more serious mental health symptoms or are in acute distress. The programme will enable you to help that person until they can access professional help – just like physical first aid. Knowing that there are visible and approachable Mental Health First Aiders in your workplace can make a huge difference to someone dealing with mental distress.

Find out more about the programme and our other courses here.