Breaking The Unhealthy Culture Of Silence Over Mental Health At Work

At Altum HR we are passionate about improving mental health at work and encourage all of our clients and partners to open up conversations about mental health in their workplace. Because although as a nation we are much better at talking about mental health, on the whole, more openly, the silence and stigma regarding mental health at work for the majority remains.

In recent years improvements have been, and continue to be made to address the fears of exclusion and prejudice many employees feel as a result of speaking out. However, in 2017 with 3 out of every five employees having experienced mental health issues due to, or where work was a related factor, is this progress enough?

So as we stand on the brink of a mental health epidemic, with figures rising each year, the question we ask is: How can we end the disconnect between a vision for workplace mental health and the reality?

At Altum HR we know the answer is knowledge, after all, knowledge is power, isn’t it? Thomas Jefferson certainly believed so stating “there can be no stronger proof that knowledge is power, and that ignorance is a weakness”, and even today almost 200 years later, this statement still rings true.

In the Mental Health at Work Report 2017 by Business in the Community, it was reported that less than a quarter (24%) of managers had ever received any mental health training. This lack of training results in a lack of knowledge of how to support employees who are experiencing mental health challenges.

This lack of knowledge means that the fear of speaking out is still real and that mental health is “a subject that cannot be discussed with colleagues or managers for fear or discrimination and victimisation”.  You may think that this is an exaggeration, but in 2017 in 15% of cases where employers disclosed a mental health issue to a line manager, the employee became subject to disciplinary action. We strongly feel that for the most part, these cases could have been avoided through appropriate knowledge and training.

So what can we do to start taking decisive and practical action to address this, rather than just talking about it?

End the culture of silence and disconnect with mental health and start talking

As a business owner or Manager, take the reins and create an awareness campaign to help break down the fear and stigmas surrounding mental health in your workforce.   Encourage key leaders by giving them knowledge and confidence to promote an open environment where conversations surrounding mental health are encouraged and accepted.

Empower your workplace by communicating your commitment to change

Gather feedback from your workforce about changes they would like to see and the problems they encounter. Use this feedback to take action and implement real changes that will make a difference. Create a new culture regarding mental health in your workplace.

Invest in time and training

By investing in training for your managers you will not only be providing them with the tools they need to manage those employees with mental health problems in a sound and compassionate manner, but you will also be educating them in how they can play a part in ceasing to put unnecessary stress on your employees. Prevention is better than cure and with clear leadership and expectations, showing civility and respect and exploring benefits such as flexible working and learning and development, you’ll be amazed at what a difference this can make to your organisational structure.

Tara Phillips, HR Professional and Mental Health Champion at Alum HR said “Just because we don’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there after all the stars are still there in the middle of the day. Mental ill health is the same, we don’t always see it, however by raising our awareness of the impacts, symptoms and support routes for our people, we are acknowledging the very real issue of growing mental ill health in the UK. By creating a culture of approachability and open discussion regarding mental ill health, we can build a bond of trust with our people, building a future of performance, loyalty and high engagement.”

If you would like to discuss how we could help you implement practical, action-driven strategies to support and empower your workforce, please do get in touch. We’d love to help you take ownership of improving mental health in your business and become a leader in your field by doing so. Get in touch for your free consultation with a HR expert for an informal discussion on how we can support you.

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