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Mental Health in the Workplace

Calendar October 17, 2017

10th October 2017 was marked by World Mental Health Day and this years’ theme was mental health in the workplace.
It is thought that the cost to the UK economy through absence due to mental health is at least £70 billion per annum.

The Health & Safety Executive believes that at least 11.7 million working days are lost as a result of employees taking time off to deal with mental health issues. This compares with 4.9 million days lost because of self-reported physical injuries. This means that at least 2 and a half more days are lost as a result of mental health illness as opposed to physical injury or illness. This does not account for the many employees who suffer with mental health in silence.

What is most remarkable about the above statistic is the fact that many workplaces are ill equipped to offer the appropriate support to those employees who suffer from mental health problems, and yet have proper processes in place for supporting those with physical illness or injury.
In some cases a failure by an employer to make employees aware of the support services they offer can lead to employees suffering in silence and compounding the problems.

In an effort to help employers better understand how to support employees and promote positive mental health in the workplace, ACAS have released a guidance booklet and 2 smaller online guides. The charity Mind also have a guide for employers on how to assist employees who are experiencing a mental health problem.

The guides cover a wide range of issues and should be distributed amongst all levels of staff to help them understand what they can do to help not only colleagues who may be suffering with poor mental health, but also what they can do to help themselves. In a lot of cases mental health issues are not identified by the sufferer and so can be left untreated and can become more prevalent over time. The guides may help employees identify that they need help and allow them to seek treatment at an early stage.

It’s great that mental health is starting to gain more attention as more high-profile individuals feel comfortable in sharing that they have suffered, such as Prince Harry who recently opened up publicly about his own mental health issues following the passing of his mother, the late Princess Diana.

Employers should ensure that they use the increased publicity to remove the stigma associated with speaking about mental health issues in the workplace and work to ensure that their businesses are offering adequate support to those who do suffer.

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