A new study has revealed that Britain’s businesses are struggling to cope with the increasing number of mental health issues in the workplace.
According to the study, carried out by the Institute of Directors (IoD), more than half of business leaders have been approached by staff with mental health issues but just 14% have a formal policy in place to deal with such issues. One in five large company directors don’t even know if they have a policy in place or not.
The latest Office for National Statistics figures suggest this is a matter which should be taken more seriously by UK companies. The number of days taken off work with mental health problems is increasing by 25% year-on-year and stress, depression and anxiety are now the biggest reason for workplace absence.
In order to combat the problem, the IoD has recommended that business leaders implement formal mental health and wellbeing policies.
How companies can support staff who are suffering with mental health problems
Mind states 1 in 6 workers are dealing with a mental health problem. Naturally, this can stop people performing at their best and organisations operate far more effectively when their staff are healthy, motivated and focused.
There are a number of steps your business can take to support employees, whether they’re stressed out or have a diagnosed mental health condition.
Create a culture that encourages staff to be open about mental health issues
A recent survey revealed that one in five people feel they can’t tell their boss they’re stressed at work, and less than half of people diagnosed with a mental health problem have told their manager about it.
Organisations need to send a clear message to staff that their mental health matters and being open about it will lead to support, not discrimination. A simple way to communicate this is to explain that mental health will be treated in the same way as physical health. Organisations can back this commitment up with a clear mental health strategy and specific policies to ensure employees experiencing mental health problems get the support they need straight away.
Learn to recognise the signs of mental illness
If managers are trained to recognise the signs of mental illness, they can approach staff in a sensitive manner. The signs of a mental health problem include:
- Being sad or down
- Confused thinking or a reduced ability to concentrate
- Excessive fears or worries or extreme feelings of guilt
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
- Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
- Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Major changes in eating habits
- Excessive anger, hostility or violence
- The symptoms of a mental health disorder can also sometimes appear as physical problems such as stomach pain, back pain, headache or other unexplained aches and pains
Learn how to talk to the person
Sometimes people worry about how to approach a conversation about a person’s mental health but there are no special skills needed – just be approachable, listen, and be empathetic. If you do nothing, problems can spiral and have a negative impact on individuals and organisations.
If you think a member of your team may be experiencing a mental health problem, you may need to take the lead and raise this with them. Often, people don’t feel confident enough to bring it up themselves. There are a number of ways you can do this including:
- Choose an appropriate place – somewhere private and quiet where the person feels comfortable and equal. Possibly a neutral space outside of the workplace.
- Ask simple, open and non-judgmental questions and let people explain things in their own words.
- Don’t try to guess what symptoms an employee might have and how these might affect their ability to do their job – many people are able to manage their mental health and perform their role to a high standard, but may require support measures when experiencing a difficult period.
- Ensure confidentiality – offer reassurances. It’s sensitive information and should be shared with as few people as possible.
- Develop an action plan – work with your employee to develop an individual action plan which identifies the signs of their mental health problem, triggers for stress, the possible impact on their work, who to contact in a crisis, and what support people need. The plan should include an agreed time to review the support measures to see if they’re working.
- Encourage people to access any employee support mechanisms available through the organization/company.
- Encourage people to seek advice and support from a professional.
If you think that you or someone you know may be suffering with a mental health condition, please feel free to contact Life Works in the strictest of confidence and we will be more than happy to help.