Why manage mental health?

Approximately one in six employees in every organisation is having mental health problems at any one time. Although employers cannot, of course, control all the factors that affect mental health, they have a key role in managing the working conditions that can have an influence on stress and mental health, as well as ensuring people with mental ill health have the support they need and are not discriminated against or stigmatised.

This will help you:

  • retain valuable, skilled, and experienced staff, saving time and costs

  • reduce sickness absence and create a more healthy workplace

  • enhance safety and increase productivity

  • demonstrate your commitment to and care for your staff.

The link between stress and mental health

While stress is not a mental illness, many of the symptoms of stress and mild mental health conditions are similar. In addition, stress can exacerbate an existing mental health issue and affect a sufferer’s ability to cope, as it can with anyone.

Organisations should always have a stress management policy in place.

It is important to train line managers in the actions they can take to control stress in the workplace. See your Stress at Work: Line Manager Guide.

What do you need to do as an employer?

  1. Draw up your Mental Health at Work policy. Ideally this should be part of an overall wellbeing strategy.

  2. If appropriate, distribute the Directors Briefing on mental health at work to relevant members of the Executive Board.

  3. Train managers to spot the signs of employees having psychological or emotional difficulties and to know what help is available. See your Mental Health at Work: Line Manager Guide.

    One form of training for line managers and certain other members of staff could be as mental health first aiders. These employees could also be trained to deal with the aftermath of a traumatic incident. The procedures they must follow should be clearly set out in the Mental Health at Work policy.

  4. Identify any work-related factors and make reasonable adjustments to support people, both while they are at work and upon returning to work after a sickness absence.

  5. Promote awareness of mental health issues and create a culture where employees feel they can talk about their concerns. Suggestions on how to do that include the following.

    • Empower a “mental health champion” to build an open culture and destigmatise mental health issues, eg through awareness days, surveys, posters, talks.

    • Offer a range of options for support and ways that people can ask for help (managers, HR person, mental health champion, mental health first aiders, EAP) so different people can be helped in different ways.

    • Communicate all these options to the workforce through as many different points and media as possible.

    • Furnish managers and trained staff with clear information on how to respond (ie the options of where to refer staff, the company policy on days off work, who they are allowed to discuss the employee with, etc).

Useful topics

The following topics offer in-depth advice and a variety of resources to help you manage mental health and stress.

Useful Q&As

  • Promoting positive mental health. Q: I have been asked to provide a brief on how we can improve the promotion of mental health issues. Could you advise me on what we could do?

  • Mental health first aiders. Q: There has been much talk in the health and safety industry about training up mental health first aiders. Is this a requirement and who should be trained?

  • Wellness and recovery action plans. Q: An employee has been diagnosed with a mental health illness. It has been suggested that we can develop with the employee a Wellness and Recovery Action Plan to assist them at work. What is this?

  • Managing seasonal affective disorder. Q: A member of staff has told us they are suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). What is this and as an employer do we have any responsibilities, eg does this come under the Equality Act 2010?

Useful features

  • How to improve mental health in the workplace. Three steps to promoting positive mental health at work.

  • Directors Briefing — Mental health at work. Directors have a key role to play in ensuring that their organisations do not discriminate against workers who may have mental ill health issues.

  • Mental health stigma: guide for employers. The recovery of employees suffering from mental ill health can be hindered by the misconceptions and negative associations surrounding the issue.

  • Mental health — from surviving to thriving. Most of us are aware of the importance of good mental health and of supporting those struggling with mental ill health. There is much that employers can do in the workplace.

  • Stress, mental health and mobile technology. Mobile technology has transformed how we work and undoubtedly improved it in terms of communication, efficiency and flexibility. But there’s a chance that all this progress is to the detriment of our health.

  • When reporting stress at work is too stressful. Is reporting stress and anxiety about work inevitably going to be seen as an admission that your job is not the right one for you?

  • Why you might need mental health first aiders. Leading British businesses have called on Theresa May to make mental health first aid mandatory in the workplace. What could this mean for your organisation?

  • How to adminster psychological first aid. The six essential steps to providing support after a traumatic incident.

  • The hidden problem: mental health in construction. The construction industry is renowned for being the sector with the greatest number of fatalities and major injuries but even more working days are lost to work-related ill health. How much of this is mental ill health?

  • Mental health, discipline and dismissal. Mental health is not a straighforward issue for employers. They may be the last to find out there’s a problem and yet the mental health issues of employees can have a very significant impact on the work of the individuals concerned.

Health Assured

If you need help on mental health and wellbeing issues, Health Assured offers the most comprehensive employee assistance programme (EAP) available today. Health Assured high quality counselling and specialist work–life support is delivered through an in-house team of 60 BACP accredited counsellors, supported by a network of thousands of active counsellors. Their specialist service supports 9 million people throughout the UK, handling over 300,000 calls a year.

See www.healthassured.org.

Last reviewed 10 May 2019