Whilst transparency around mental health has improved over recent years, there are still many stigmas attached to it. It is not simply a case that ‘If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist’.
Mental Health Statistics
Measuring and identifying mental health concerns within your organization may be hampered significantly by the unreliability of employee self-reporting.Statistics show that on average employees take around 8 days off each year due to mental health problems. Worryingly though, 42% of employees admit that they use a physical illness as an excuse for these absences rather than admitting a mental health issue. Stress, anxiety and depression were the most common issues that employees admitted ‘covering up’. Only 15% of employees feel that they could tell their boss the true reason for their absence.
So why are mental issues being hidden in the workplace? Many employees state that they felt that their managers and co-workers stigimatised mental health issues, seeing them ‘excuses’. Employees fear that they will not be taken seriously or will be perceived as being weak if they reveal that they are suffering from a mental illness. They also feel that they will be passed by for job opportunities and promotions by speaking out.
Making a Change
So what can businesses do to change this? Initially, implementing an anonymous questionnaire will enable you to undertake an audit of the mental health of your staff. This will give an independent and honest snapshot of the current workforce and the possible gaps which require intervention.
As always, the strategies you could put into place to help staff will vary from business to business but here are some practical ways that all businesses could help to bring the importance of mental health to the forefront.
- Training managers to spot signs of mental health concerns such as decreasing attendance, poor timekeeping and sudden changes in physical health. Those suffering from poor mental health may become more withdrawn or attempt to isolate themselves from others.
- All businesses have trained first aiders who can become trained mental health first aiders as well. Having a designated person as a point of contact who is outside of the management structure will help those suffering from mental health concerns to open up.
- Fostering a workplace culture which talks about mental health and encourages openness and honesty will tackle any remaining stigma. Encourage managers to lead from the top and start the dialogue about mental health in the workplace.
- Managing employee workloads and offering flexible working hours will help employees to see that their needs are at the heart of the business and are more likely to ask for help rather than burying their problems.
- Booking outside healthcare professionals to come in and offer resilience training and additional support for employees who feel that they need it will help employees to face their issues head-on.
- Encouraging employees to look after themselves physically with onsite gyms or reduced gym memberships, access to healthy eating in the workplace and encouraging them to leave their desks at lunchtime. The link between physical health and mental health is crucial and often overlooked.
Being Pro-active, Not Re-active with Mental Health
As always, it’s important to remember that prevention is better than cure. So often help for employees doesn’t kick in until they have been absent from work for a substantial period of time when they are then referred to occupational health.
Having trained staff who are able to identify any early signs and an open environment where staff feel like can be honest about the challenges they are facing, will mean that early intervention and signposts to help can be found early before employees find themselves in a situation which they may not feel they can easily recover from.
If you would like any support making practical and positive changes in your workplace, reach out to us and book in a free consultation. We are happy to talk you through some of the ways you can make easy changes in your business and help support your staff more effectively.