How to support Mental Health in the workplace

Each year, the number of mental health cases continues to grow on a global scale.

In summer 2021, the Office For National Statistics reported that the impact of the pandemic had left 74% of adults experiencing some form of depression due to a lack of freedom, independence and access to healthcare/treatment for non-coronavirus related issues.

Worryingly, the problem is emerging from a young age; it’s reported that 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have a mental health condition and suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds.

Poor mental health can have a significant impact in all areas of a person's life, especially when it comes to their ability to perform at work.

As an employer, you might notice that an employee is more tired than usual, makes uncharacteristic mistakes or they struggle to get motivated.

In today's day in age, good mental health and good management go hand in hand. Despite the fact that mental health problems can be complex and often require help from a medical professional, there are things which an employer can do to alleviate the challenges which the employee is facing.

With that in mind and to mark Mental Health Awareness Week (which is between 9th and 15th May), recruitment agency Spencer Clarke Group have compiled their top 7 tips on how to support mental health in the workplace.

 

Be aware that anyone can suffer with poor mental health

Factors such as genetics, poverty, your sexual orientation, gender, childhood trauma or an ongoing physical illness could make you more predisposed but anyone can suffer from poor mental health.

According to Mind charity, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year, with only 1 in 8 of those receiving treatment for it.

As a company, it is important to recognise how widespread the problem is and that it is highly likely that you will have people within your team who suffer from poor mental health. It could even be the people who you ‘least expect.’

 

Treat everyone as an individual

Different mental health conditions affect people in different ways so it is important to treat everyone and their experience as an individual. Don’t try to generalise or assume that you understand their condition fully because you watched a programme on Netflix about it.

Without prying, take the time to find out how the condition directly affects them but be aware that circumstances can change, sometimes on a daily basis.

Offering a level of flexibility during the more ‘difficult days’ could just be what your employee needs to hear to help them feel valued and respected.

 

Foster a positive company culture

Awareness of mental health has increased over the last few years and while this is positive, there is still a lot of work to be done. More often than not, employees will keep their feelings hidden in fear of what their colleagues or employer will think of them.

By fostering a positive company culture, employees can feel comfortable to talk about anything which is concerning them. By opening up channels of communication, it will help to ‘normalise’ talking about mental health and reduce the stigma.

 

Let your employees know that you’re there to talk

If an employee is experiencing poor mental health, it can be a daunting prospect to raise it with your manager. However, if the employer raises the subject first, it could make it easier for the employee to open up.

Nobody is expecting employers to find a concrete solution to the problems, but what they can do is to listen to the challenges which the employee is facing and make changes at work (if possible) to unburden them of any work-related stress.

Employers could use the private time during 121’s as a safe space to talk about any concerns which the employee is having.

 

Be open to suggestions

If an employee has been struggling with their mental health for some time, they might have suggestions on how their employer could make their life more manageable. For instance, if an employee takes medication which makes them drowsy in the morning, the employee could ask to start work a little later on in the day.

This would mutually benefit both parties as the employee would be more productive during their time in work. As an employer, be open to suggestions on how you can help and try to be flexible where possible.

 

Treat mental and physical illness of equal importance

Historically, mental health illnesses have been less understood and spoken about than physical illnesses such as cancer or a broken leg.

However, times have changed and it’s crucial that employers treat mental and physical illness of equal importance. According to a recent global survey, 77% of Brits say we need to adopt a far more tolerant attitude to people with mental illness.

While work still needs to be done, the survey also found that Britain is one of the most tolerant countries when it comes to mental health. 76% of the British public believe that mental illness is the same as a physical illness.

 

Invest in training

If your company has little knowledge about mental health conditions, why not be proactive and invest in some training? A mental health workshop could help to debunk common myths and reduce the stigma of talking about it.

It could also help everyone to build the necessary skills to have productive conversations around mental health. If the time comes when someone wants to talk, wouldn’t it be better to be prepared with something constructive to say?

If your company can’t afford to invest in external training, every company can utilise free resources online to create their own workshop.