Mental Health – is it on your agenda?

Mental health has finally become a topic of conversation and it’s critical to keep it on the agenda. Might this be the only positive to come out of Covid-19?

October 26, 2021

The impact of the pandemic on so many people has been wide-reaching. It has undoubtedly caused increased levels of stress and anxiety across all business sectors, adding another dimension to the already present challenge of supporting employees with their mental health.

It’s well known that stress can make you ill. We know that work-related stress, depression and anxiety has increased in recent years, and the last year has presented new challenges that have never been faced before, and which may affect the workplaces of the UK for some time to come.

Rob Vandy

HSE’s Head of stress and mental health policy

Earlier this month people across the globe marked World Mental Health Day, an event that aims to raise awareness, educate, and decrease the stigma around mental health. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the impact on mental health has been significant.  The theme for World Mental Health Day this year was ‘Mental health in an unequal world’ aiming to address the deepening inequalities in our society as well as highlighting how access to mental health services remains unequal. 

Several industry sectors are now addressing the need to support businesses to ensure that employee mental health stays on the agenda. Rural Wellbeing, the national rural health forum for Scotland is running a ‘Rural Connections’ project to improve mental health and wellbeing throughout Scotland by providing fully funded mental health awareness training to rural organisations with fewer than 50 members of staff. Support in Mind Scotland is working in partnership with Mental Health UK and Neptune Energy to deliver this project which is being rolled out this Autumn. Further information can be accessed here.

Good mental health is not simply the absence of diagnosable mental health problems, although good mental health is likely to help protect against development of many such problems.

Mental Health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation suggests that good mental health is characterised by a person’s ability to fulfil a number of key functions and abilities which include: 

  • The ability to learn 
  • The ability to feel, express and manage a range of positive and negative emotions
  • The ability to form and maintain good relationships with others
  • The ability to cope and manage change and uncertainty. 

Where to start with regards to ensuring employee mental wellbeing

  • Step 1 is acknowledging stress in the workplace.

  • Step 2 is understanding the implications and what to look out for.

    An article for Pest Magazine (April-May 2021) introduces the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) new tools to prevent, reduce and manage stress in the workplace. 

    The article outlines the key factors that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor mental health, lower productivity, sickness rates and alarmingly, with increased accidents at work. These are outlined below: 

    • Demands – managing workload, working environment. 
    • Control – how much input a person has in their role. 
    • Support – access to resources, encouragement and development.
    • Relationships – positive working environments and managing conflict. 
    • Role – Supporting employees to understand their role and place within the organisation.
    • Change – How change is managed and communicated. 
  • Step 3 is knowing where to access information and tools to help.

    The HSE has a wide range of practical support and guidance in relation to mental health, including risk assessment templates, posters and downloadable PDFs on its website including a “Talking Toolkit” to encourage practical conversations with employees. 

    The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has many accessible documents on its website including guides and posters. It has produced a specific guide to address pandemic-related mental health problems in addition to numerous guides and posters available to download.

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