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How you can support mental health at work?

This week, from the 18th to 24th of May 2020 is Mental Health Awareness week, as hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, and the theme is kindness.  The Mental Health Foundation says:

“We all have so much going on in our lives, including competing strains and stresses – not to mention the current coronavirus pandemic. This can see kindness pushed to one side, in favour of what is urgent or trending now, but if we take the time to be kind to other people, we can reap the emotional dividends.  It can really make a difference and especially for people who are vulnerable or struggling.”

Awareness of the scale of mental health issues is growing rapidly, and with that follows the need to increase our understanding of how people experiencing mental ill-health can be supported in the workplace.  A survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation found that around 74% of adults in the UK have felt so overwhelmed with stress, they’ve been unable to cope; with 32% left feeling suicidal. Millions of people across the country regularly experience high levels of stress which is damaging to their health.

Employers have a ‘duty of care’. This means they must do all they reasonably can to support their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing. This includes:

  • making sure the working environment is safe
  • protecting staff from discrimination
  • carrying out risk assessments

Talking openly about mental health is important. If staff feel they can talk openly about mental health, problems are less likely to build up.

It’s helpful if employers create an environment where staff feel able to talk openly about mental health.

For example:

  • treating mental and physical health as equally important
  • making sure employees have regular one-to-ones with their managers, to talk about any problems they’re having
  • encouraging positive mental health, for example arranging mental health awareness training, workshops or appointing mental health ‘champions’ who staff can talk to

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