Time to Talk Day: Why Businesses Must Do More to Support Employees’ Mental Health

February 1st is Time to Talk Day, an annual awareness day dedicated to talking about mental health, empowering individuals to come together to start a conversation and inspire change. Run by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, it 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.

What Are The Numbers?

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% increase since 2019.

This is nothing short of a frightening figure when considering that at least 36% of these individuals are unable to work due to mental health problems such as depression, stress, and anxiety.

A significant number of individuals in the UK is struggling with mental health illnesses – approximately one in four adults each year – calling for radical change in the way we tackle the topic, as well as better structures and resources.

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.

Mental health illnesses are estimated to cost the UK’s economy at least £118 billion a year, with 18 million days per year lost to mental health conditions in the workplace.

And with recent research showing that around 48% of UK employees do not have good mental well-being at work, it’s clear that we must put more effective measures in place to safeguard those who are struggling in the workplace. But how can this be achieved?

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 carefully review their effectiveness. Offering mental health 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 practice and, crucially, in line with feedback from their employees. This will subsequently help to ensure that the right programmes and resources are implemented, wherever possible.

Be open

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.

Promote what you do

Many companies don’t adequately promote their wellbeing 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.

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 are able to recognise signs of mental health struggles and appropriately support employees.

Part of this involves carrying out regular check-ins with employees about their overall wellbeing, 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.

Utilise Mental Health First Aid

We all know the benefits of having someone trained in how to react if a work-colleague had a heart attack or another health emergency. Yet we’ve failed for decades to provide the same level of support for those experiencing a mental health crisis.

Mental Health First Aid training can help identify early signs of mental health 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 mental health issues.

To learn more about mental health training resources and how these can benefit your organisation, please get in touch.

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