Mental Health In The Workplace

Elle Williams | May 14th 2018

Describing Mental Health in one word can be challenging, but can you really identify one word for it?

Mental Health is around us, which can be often overlooked and even ignored at times. We’re afraid to talk about it and we fear other people’s perception of it. This shouldn’t be the case. This is the time to speak up about Mental Health, because it’s ok to.

Mental Health affects 1 in 4 people in the UK and 1 in 6 people in England experience a Mental Health problem such as anxiety or depression*. But it’s not necessarily how many suffer from it; it’s how it’s the level of support given that will help individuals on a day to day basis. No one should be made to feel isolated, they should be made to feel part of a long-term support team, whether this includes your friends and family, or co-workers.

If I was to describe Mental Health in one word it would be strength. It’s hard to fully understand how mental health can affect you unless you have/ are experiencing it, but being around people who have a mental health problem, I can see the strength they have to keep going.

PushON asked a number of professionals about mental health in the workplace and whether more should be done legally to support it. Here is what they had to say:

Describe Mental Health in One Word

  1. Prevalent – Roy Wilding, Creative Director at PushON
  2. Buoyancy – Simone Spray, Chief Executive at 42nd Street (supporting young people aged 11-25 with their emotional wellbeing and mental health).
  3. Normal – Fiona Thomas, Founder of Fiona Likes To Blog and Freelance Journalist.
  4. Normal – Stephanie Kershaw, Channel Sales Manager at Magento
  5. Health – Naomi Timperley, Chair of Capital Pilot and Co-Founder of Tech North Advocates
  6. Balance ­- Gemma Eccleston, Associate Director at PR Agency One
  7. Universal – Ian Jenkins, Psychotherapist, Therapy and Learning

Should employers have more legal obligations towards Mental Health care in the workplace?

Simone Spray from the charity 42nd Street** said: “The words “legal obligation” might sound too officious, but I do think employees should integrate clear operational approaches that address mental health and well-being in the workplace. This is good business acumen anyway because a mentally well workforce is a happy, productive, engaged workforce which is win, win for everyone. As a minimum, there should be a mental health policy setting out the steps an organisation is taking to promote well-being and support staff with any mental health issues and all staff should be made aware of this for example by building it into induction, team meetings or one to one meetings. This would help to demystify what’s available to staff and hold organisations to account, whilst allowing them to construct policies around the specifics of their working arrangements.”

“Yes absolutely employers should have more legal obligations. I’ve struggled telling my employers in the past because I know I’ll be discriminated against and that the staff will talk about me behind my back. I think at least one person should go through some sort of formal training, so that they know how to properly accommodate employees with mental illness. Flexible working would also be helpful, allowing staff to take time off or work from home without feeling judged. Also, time off to see doctors as and when required.” Fiona Thomas

“Absolutely they should it is a necessity for everyone to contribute in looking after not only your own but others Mental Health. It should be an everyday conversation and should be a key part of our working life as we spend most of our time at work, therefore this is where we should be spending the time ensuring we monitor and look after our mental health. It should not be a taboo subject or something that defines or highlights an individual in the work place in any way shape or form. Mental health can mean so many things to so many people and is not something that affects a person always which is why it should be an everyday part of our working lives with open information available and support / training like first aid.” – Stephanie Kershaw

“I think employers definitely need to take the mental health of their workforce seriously. Poor mental health can be triggered by poor working environments and stress.” Naomi Timperley

“Mental Health is everyone…if you work with people or employ people then mental health affects you and your business.  Mental health is about caring for your work force…but it is also caring about the success of your business.” Ian Jenkins

Where does your responsibility end as an employer if one of your employees was suffering from mental health?

“That’s a tricky one and the honest answer are, I don’t really know. There’s probably some legal line in the sand that I should educate myself about, but if an employee has been brave enough to discuss a mental health issue with me directly, it feels much more personal than an employer/employee situation and is just human to human contact that requires empathy first and foremost over any corporate policies and procedures.

That said, I don’t see mental health issues as being any different to any other illness and therefore, the same processes should apply. Time off if required recovering and guidance and support should be offered to find suitable expertise to help whoever is suffering work through their issue.” Roy Wilding

“We take mental health very seriously at PR Agency One. Just like any illness, if someone was unwell we’d recommend they go see a doctor or get some sort of support, or take time off if needs be.

As for where the responsibility for mental health starts and stops, I think that is open for discussion. As an employer, it is my job to create a safe, fun and stress free environment for my team to thrive. Then there is a duty of care to ensure that people are coping with work and life.  

The big challenge with mental health issues is that people don’t always recognise they are suffering and it is not the easiest subject to bring up as a discussion point. However, it is really important to do so and we have regular one-to-ones and address personal development quite regularly, so this is where our conversation about mental health might commence from and can be handled most sensitively.   

We also have a clinical psychologist who can be accessed using our training budget and we encourage people with or without mental health issues to access this service because personal awareness and consciousness is such an important facet of the self. I’ve tried to normalise this by being open and honest about how useful seeing a psychologist has been for me in the past. I personally think everyone should spend some time with a psychologist. It’s perfectly normal and even an enjoyable process.” – Gemma Eccleston

 

Sometimes we find it difficult to open up to those close to us and therefore, talking to your employer or a neutral person can help take the pressure off.  We shouldn’t be afraid to open up and we shouldn’t be afraid of what others think. Fear is what makes us strong.

A mental health problem can be caused by various things including social media. We carried out a survey to find if there was a link between social media and mental health. From those asked, 48% said social media makes them feel self-conscious and 41% said it makes them feel lonely. You can find the full results from the survey here.

Whether it’s in the workplace or at home, your health and wellbeing should come first, and we should all make time to look after ourselves.

Don’t forget, there are charities that you can get in touch with that provide help and support to anyone with a mental health issue, such as Mind.

*Mind.org.uk

**42nd Street is charity that supports young people, aged 11-25 in Greater Manchester with their emotional wellbeing and mental health