Blog – Mental health awareness week

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This week is Mental Health Awareness Week; dedicated to removing the stigma & ignorance attached to mental health conditions, while also trying to educate the public and make sure mental health issues aren’t forgotten about. Suffering with one of the many conditions that are included under the umbrella of mental health, even today, still has a massive stigma attached to it. This causes many to ignore their own symptoms or even judge those who have a mental well-being issue.

The workplace is one of the most important locations to keep and maintain that mental health is in check, half the absences in non-Manuel work are stress related. Statistically it causes over 70 million working days a year to be lost equalling to many billions lost economically a year in the UK, your business could be suffering financially because of this. Statistics provided by Mind.com quoted that: “More than one in five (21 per cent) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them.”

 

As a manager how do I take care of my employees & promote positive mental health?

The first thing managers can do is be actively looking for sign of mental distress or problems in employee behaviour around the workplace.

Creating a culture of openness on the issue of mental health is key and a subtle way to tell staff you think have issues that they can come to you. Talk to your team as a whole and never target the individual when you do discuss this topic; it’s a sensitive subject and you want to remove as much embarrassment they feel as possible.

Finally, engaging with the problem (which will be covered in later sections) must be done when necessary. Don’t leave someone to suffer alone if you feel they need help because they may not ask for any support if not reminded you’ll give them it.

 

How do you spot the signs of mental illness in staff?

Emotional signs – The employee could seem in a bad mood generally, lack a sense of humour, be irritable, sensitive to criticism and lack confidence. These issues are usually out of character for that particular employee, they may have joined in office banter but now seem introverted.

Performance –Employees showing cognitive signs may make more mistakes then usual, not make decisions well or are unable to concentrate. Look out for sudden drops in the quality of their work and productivity. They could be working longer hours or have increased absence as people show it in contrasting ways.

Physical – They could be visible exhausted at work, be in a state of chronic illness, be rapidly losing or gaining weight (don’t mention this to them) and generally their appearance could be not up to office standards.

 

What to do when someone has a mental health problem to help them?

You have to be willing to make reasonable adjustments for an employee with a mental illness issue as it can make their life much easier. The first key thing you would need to look into is their workload, are they being pushed too far by it? Maybe try and take some of this work off them and give it to someone who can work through it more comfortably. This can be a temporary thing and it is not stripping them of duties but rather giving them breathing space to perhaps concentrate on another task fully.

Seek medical advice (You can read up on the issue & encourage the staff member to go to a doctor) and evidence on the particular issue, everyone has an individual problem and you must be able to adapt. Consider whether any of your policies or practices could put an employee suffering from mental health issues at a particular disadvantage compared to other employees. Keeping communication lines always open to be able to keep track of their progress.

Work and communicate with the employee to ensure that they are happy with any adjustments being made for them and feel able to talk to you about their needs. Keep the situation under review; do not assume that a mental health issue has disappeared just because an employee outwardly appears better. It is important they are provided with support in all aspects of their life and can discuss in work their personal matters comfortable.  

If you are a line manager then encourage your bosses to provide you with the correct training if you are feeling uncomfortable or don’t know how to handle it properly (56% of managers in a survey responded this way), lack of training is the top reason why supervisors feel unable to help. If you are the company boss then you must provide this training.

 

What are the effects on not handling mental health properly?

If you don’t take the proper precautions and handle peoples mental health in your work place effectively it can have a number of issues that damage your organisation.  Stress related time off is, as said in the intro, the number one cause of time off in non-manual jobs. Those that don’t take time of are significantly impaired productivity wise.

A study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development highlighted the impact poor mental health can have on employees. The statistics included ‘37% of sufferers are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues, 57% find it harder to juggle multiple tasks, 80% find it difficult to concentrate, 62% take longer to do tasks, 50% are potentially less patient with customers/clients.’ Overall these issues could be costing your business thousands.

 

 

Why don’t people in general feel comfortable discussing their Mental Health?

People find it hard to open up about these issues, it leaves them vulnerable and open to being made more upset. Especially at work people don’t want to seem incapable or un-professional, the stigma attached to it makes it much harder to spot. If you aren’t open enough with staff, they simply will not even attempt to ask for help.

According to a survey conducted by Comres for BBC Radio 5 live. The survey asked 1,104 British adults in full-time employment about their attitudes to mental health. And 49% said they would be unlikely to tell their boss about problems such as anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. Only 35% said they’d be happy to tell colleagues.

 

Why more attention must be given to mental health at work?

Awareness of mental health is growing and this is because it is such a potentially dangerous issue for business. It can lead to you losing some of your best staff, hard workers and friends, a survey on Mind.com revealed that: “14 per cent agreed that they had resigned and 42 per cent had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them”.

Training on mental health can help staff help other employees with their issues, such as managers, but also make people more comfortable with saying their own issues. The key is to remove the stigma and the stereotypes of mental illness. Develop solutions by listening to the sufferers, in many cases you just have to help them help themselves and it is about providing them with stability. Above all, be empathetic.

 

 

If you have any issues related to handling Mental Illness in the workplace then Higher Performance Consultancy would be grateful to help you. We are a leading UK specialist in Employment law, HR and Health and Safety Services, please contact us on the form below or call us on 0843 509 4543.

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