Workplaces have been warned to support employees’ wellbeing better, with 18 million days lost annually to ill mental health
Business leaders should prioritise providing more support to employees to combat a surge in mental ill health linked to the workplace, an expert has warned.
This comes following a recent YouGov report that found one-fifth of young people across the country have missed school or work in the past year due to their mental health.
More than a quarter of those questioned also said they worried their current employer would not support them if they experienced a mental health problem, and one in 10 young people left work because of this issue.
Tim Ladd, managing director of Red Umbrella, which specialises in providing mental health first aid training resources, told City A.M. that there were “deeply alarming” numbers of people who are now suffering from conditions including depression and anxiety.
Mr Ladd said a “radical change” in approach was needed to tackle the issue, ahead of Time To Talk Day tomorrow. The annual awareness day on February 1, was formed by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and promotes the message that talking about mental health has the power to change lives, being a complex and sensitive topic that many find challenging to discuss.
One measure, Mr Ladd says, could be an expanding use of mental health first aiders, which rising numbers of UK businesses are now looking to implement in offices and workplaces.
“Recent research shows around 48 per cent of UK employees do not have good mental wellbeing at work. So it is clear that we must put more effective measures in place to safeguard those who are struggling.
“This requires radical change in the way we tackle the topic, as well as better structures and resources for those affected.
“Right now, the mental health crisis in the UK is a very real and alarming reality, driven by a historic lack of investment in facilities and resources. We must do better if we are to stop it in its tracks”.
In the workplace, the growing mental health crisis has been linked to the 500,000 under 35s who are out of work due to long-term illness – a 44 per cent increase since 2019.
1. Review the support you have in place
More and more employers are implementing strategies and resources to improve mental health wellbeing, yet they often fail to review their effectiveness carefully. Offering resources that are not fit for purpose can be equally as detrimental as not offering them altogether.
Employers should seek to review current structures in line with best practices and, crucially, in line with employee feedback. This will subsequently help to ensure that the right programmes and resources are implemented, wherever possible.
2. Be open about mental health
A big part of the problem is that there isn’t an open conversation happening about mental health in most workplaces. The starting point is always to foster a culture that prioritises mental health, reduces stigma, and encourages open communication. This begins with the employer keeping staff informed regarding the resources available to them and how they can access them.
Many companies don’t adequately promote their well-being resources to employees, which could exacerbate existing feelings that utilising these tools is shameful or inappropriate. Overall, employees should feel that they are being listened to and that there are tools in place – or being put in place – that can address their needs to build a sense of safety, solidarity and support.
4. Invest in training
In reducing stigma – regrettably still a prominent issue in the mental health space – businesses should also seek to train managers with appropriate programmes to ensure they can recognise signs of struggles and appropriately support employees.
Part of this involves carrying out regular check-ins with employees about their overall well-being, helping make individuals feel supported. Mental health training resources are an extremely effective tool in building a supportive and inclusive environment as well as introducing tangible and immediate ways to help employees in distress.
5. Utilise mental health first aid
We all know the benefits of having someone trained in how to react if a work colleague has a heart attack or another health emergency. Yet we’ve failed for decades to provide the same level of support for those experiencing a crisis.
Mental health first aid training can help identify early signs of issues, and ensure individuals are guided towards the appropriate resources or professional help.
This type of training also promotes a culture of understanding, empathy and solidarity, further reducing stigma by empowering more and more individuals with the knowledge they need to tackle issues.
To learn more about Red Umbrella and its training resources, please visit red-umbrella.co.uk