Mental health poses a massive threat to businesses and organisations in every sector across the UK.
Despite recent government interventions, it is still found to be the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK with a massive 70 million days of work lost each year due to workers suffering from stress, depression and other mental health problems, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
Hosted by Business In The Community (BITC) and the Royal Mail Group, the ‘Mental Health First Aid’ conference welcomed a panel of leadership experts to discuss what needs to be done to encourage better support and handling of mental health in the workplace.
A culture of silence
A recent report by the BITC suggested only 39 per cent of employees would be honest with their manager when calling in sick in cases where they were suffering from stress, anxiety or depression.
Titled ‘Leading on mental wellbeing: transforming the role of line managers’, the report also revealed that line managers themselves are increasingly suffering from stress-related illness and poor mental health.
Over the course of a year, the average manager was found to work 46 extra days, with three in five reporting concerns about the impact of longer working hours on their mental wellbeing.
Luciana Berger, shadow health minister for mental health said: “It’s important to remember that one in four people a year will suffer from a mental health issue at some point, and one in twelve will suffer from depression.
“Employers must be prepared to recognise the scale of this challenge, and to play a role in addressing it.”
Manager skills shortage
In order to confront the issue, line managers need to be trained to recognise signs of poor mental health among employees, according to the experts.
This way, mental health can be normalised by managers being prepared to ask questions and having honest conversations about depression and self-harm.
However, this isn’t an easy solution, there must be an increase in dedicated training for this function, as at present only 50 per cent of managers currently receive such training.
If not tackled early, mental health will not only prove to affect productivity and wellbeing, but will also impact a company's finance quite significantly.
Mental health is currently costing the economy an estimated £26 billion a year, which translates to £1,000 per employee.
At the conference, Moya Greene, chief executive of the Royal Mail group, said: “If you’re a big company like ours, you’ll probably find that 30-35 per cent of your drug bill is related to stress alleviators or even more serious mental health problems.”
HR can help
At a time when working culture becomes increasingly intense with a rising of presenteeism and overtime, HR has a profound role to play in furthering the conversation about mental health.
Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said: “HR professionals must know who to turn to and who to recommend to colleagues where mental health is concerned. Having a resource within an organisation is fundamental to resolving this.
“Mental health and wellbeing is a fundamental aspect of any business, and HR must be better at calling it out and equipping line managers with the tools to deal with it.”
Posted by Jon Aspinell on 10th February 2016
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