Interested in mental health in the workplace?

Simon Lawton Smith, Head of Policy at the Mental Health Foundation:

"Interested in mental health in the workplace? On 19 December the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) published findings from a survey of over 2,000 people in the UK on this issue. The findings suggested that more than a quarter (26%) of employees have experienced a mental health problem while in employment. Yet just 25% of respondents say their organisation encourages staff to talk openly about mental health problems and only 37% say their employer supports employees with mental health problems well.

We know that it can be great going into work, and it can be hell going into work. Work is generally good for people’s mental health. It builds people’s self-esteem, establishes social networks and brings in an income. But work can also of course place people under enormous stress – especially at a time of recession when lots of employers are looking to cut costs and workforce.

There couldn’t be a better time to campaign for employers being better informed about mental health in the workplace, and making sure anyone with a problem gets sensitive and helpful support. This isn’t only about helping individuals. It’s also about the economic benefits of having a mentally healthy and productive workforce.

It’s not that we don’t know what a mentally healthy working environment looks like, it’s that we often simply don’t invest in it. There is a wealth of guidance and advice available, including

  • The Department of Health’s Shift mental health resources for employers that include a Line Managers’ guide for managing and supporting staff with experience of mental health problems and Working it Out, designed to help employers raise awareness of mental health in the workplace and give the best possible support should a member of staff become unwell
  • National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) public health guidance 22 that sets out best evidence for promoting mental wellbeing at work
  • The Mental Health Foundation’s booklet What Works For You  that advises employees “how to help colleagues through tough times”.

Let’s make 2012 the year that everyone in work knows that they will be properly supported if they feel they need help with a mental health problem. "

Published 20 December 2011 |
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