Reducing mental health stigma in the workplace

Reducing mental health stigma in the workplace

At least one in four people will experience a mental health issue this year. How many people is that in your office or place of work?

By Charlotte Dawson

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. It’s date recognised by more than 150 countries worldwide.

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This week I stood in Trafalgar Square with more than 100 other campaigners holding a green umbrella to form a giant green human ribbon – the international symbol for mental health – to raise awareness and start a conversation.

I’m a mental health advocate and Metia’s first trained mental health first aider.

Creating safe psychological environments

Work plays a huge role in mental health. Everyone should be able to talk about their mental health is a safe space. Negative stereotypes are the main obstacle that prevent people from seeking help.

It’s important for employees to know that they won’t be risking their job if they're open. In fact it's a positive reflection of strength, honesty and communication.

Whether issues are work-related or not, it’s an employer’s duty to provide support.

It’s also in an organisations best interest as it encourages loyalty, productivity and engagement from staff while reducing financial implications.

According to Department of Health mental ill health costs UK businesses 70 million working days every year. That's between £70bn and £100bn.

But it’s not only for mental health first aiders and HR to promote mental wellbeing.

Positive mental health starts with good management

A positive attitude to mental health starts with leaders and managers. If you’re a line manager, here’s some advice provided by MHFA England on what you can do to help your team:

  1. Develop a work culture where everyone is treated with respect and dignity.

  2. Develop a culture where open and honest communication is encouraged. Support and mutual respect are the norm.

  3. Give employees more control over their work and how they do it. Lack of autonomy is a major cause of stress.

  4. Ensure that the employee has the right level of skills for the job.

  5. Make sure that staff have a manageable workload.

  6. Operate flexible working hours so that employees can balance the demands of home life with work.

  7. Audit the work environment for physical issues such as flickering lights and remove them.

It’s also important to recognise the early warning signs of mental ill health.

If you think a member of your team is behaving out of the ordinary ask if they’re okay. And then ask again.

Take them out for a coffee, check in and give them the opportunity to open up. That alone can make a difference.

If it’s you that’s struggling, reach out to someone you can trust. I promise it’ll help. If you don’t feel like you can there’s loads of alternative support for you.

The mental health conversation is getting louder

A groundbreaking moment happened this week when the NHS and Public Health England launched the first national mental health campaign - Every Mind Matters.

It promotes a platform that offers advice and practical tips based on your answers to a series of questions. It’s a great initiative that’s been a long time coming, but the most important thing is we’re making progress – and there’s still a way to go.

To learn more about how you can support your teams and colleagues and reduce stigma within the workplace read the full line managers resource here.

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