It’s mental health awareness week. With approximately 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem each year, and with mental health problems a leading cause of sickness absence costing UK employers approximately £2.4 billion per year , it’s time for employers to accept that mental health issues are very much commonplace within the workplace.

Although the statistics mentioned above have remained fairly consistent across the last couple of years, what we are noticing is more conversation and awareness surrounding mental health issues.  Events including this week’s Mental Health Awareness Week (running from the 8th -14th May) are highlighting more than ever, this important issue.

Mental health issues can take a number of forms and its important employers are equipped to manage these issues and support their workforce.

I’m a firm advocate of raising awareness of mental wellbeing and maintain that employers have a role to play in addressing and supporting employees.  In fact, it’s time for employers to approach their mental wellbeing strategy in the same way they would perhaps their physical wellbeing strategy; by looking at preventative measures and offering support to employees.  And by being more open, employers are already helping to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues.

Running events and providing information to employees in association with awareness days can and will make a difference, but in my opinion a critical first step to supporting your workforce is to offer Mental Health First Aid training.  Something we have been delivering in association with Minding Your Business to a number of employers and our own internal managers.  If managers have been through this sort of training and are skilled enough, they can recognise the signs or changes an employee may be going through, which could indicate an underlying mental health issue.  The training equips managers to offer support be it by drawing on this training, or by pointing employees in the right direction of additional support and help.

Even our Prime Minister, Theresa May, this week pledged to shake up the mental health system by scrapping the “flawed” 1983 Mental Health Act.  She has also committed to ensure a teacher in every primary and secondary school will be trained in mental health first aid to identify signs that children are developing anxiety or depression.

Clearly, mental health and wellbeing is rising up the agenda and if employers can embrace this as well, to offer a positive and open approach to mental wellbeing in the workplace, together we’ll be working towards removing the stigma of mental health issue and improve the wellbeing of our current valued people and future generations.

For information relating to wellbeing in the workplace, please contact us on 0330 332 7143* or info@second-sight.com.

Our next two day Mental Health First Aid Course is running across the 7th and 13th September.  You can register to attend or find out more here.

By Morag Livingston, Head of Group Risk and Wellbeing, Secondsight.

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