Last week I joined EW Group’s Mental Health First Aid course in London. This two-day training course, accredited by Mental Health First Aid England, teaches people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue.
Courses like this are part of a growing movement to raise mental health awareness in the workplace, to decrease the stigma surrounding mental health, and to promote the benefits of wellbeing at work. The course covers a multitude of mental health conditions and how to provide the right support in different situations. After the course, I now feel much more confident to talk about mental health, and to support people with mental health issues.
Ultimately I believe all workplaces should have Mental Health First Aiders on site in the same way they have physical first aiders; these skills are vital for healthy workplaces.
Thriving at Work – the key statistics around mental health at work
The workplace is a vital arena for people’s mental health. Working cultures and practices can promote good mental health or undermine it. Businesses have a duty of care to protect their staff; this includes protecting them from workplace stress. With one in four people in the UK experiencing mental ill health during their lives, employers also have a legal obligation under the 2010 Equality Act to prevent discrimination against those with certain mental health conditions.
The case for supporting employees’ mental health goes beyond the moral and the legal. According to the Thriving at Work report released by the UK Government in October 2017, the annual cost to employers is between £33 billion and £42 billion each year. This figure is made up of the cost of presenteeism (when individuals attend work but are less productive because of poor mental health), sickness absence and staff turnover.
Wellbeing and inclusion – the future of work
Thriving at Work sets out a vision of how progress can be achieved in addressing mental health issues in the workplace. For instance, the report’s authors envisage that, in ten years’ time, a series of notable changes will have happened in the way we think about mental health at work:
1. The rise of ‘good work’
Staff members in all types of employment will have ‘good work’. In practice, this will consist of a mixture of autonomy, fair pay, work-life balance, opportunities for progression, and the absence of workplace discrimination, bullying and harassment.
2. Mental health awareness and practical response skills become the norm
All of us will have the knowledge, tools and confidence to look after our own mental health and the workplace wellbeing of those around us.
3. Systemic organisational change around wellbeing and mental health
All employers of all sizes will be:
- Better equipped with the understanding, confidence and tools to promote mental health awareness, and to prevent mental ill-health caused or worsened by work
- More able to support individuals with mental health problems to thrive within the organisation
- More aware of how to access help and resources to reduce sickness absence caused by mental ill-health
- The numbers of people with mental health problems leaving employment each year will dramatically reduce.
Making these changes happen is, of course, an ambitious challenge, and one that requires workplaces of all sizes and sectors to invest in employee wellbeing and mental health awareness.
At EW Group, we understand that wellbeing and inclusion go hand in hand. We believe in the power of inclusive leadership and management skills, and how they can help create more inclusive workplaces where everyone can thrive.
If you want to find out how we can help you build an inclusive culture with wellbeing at its heart, get in touch to speak to one of our specialist consultants.