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  • Kat Hounsell

Mental health in the workplace - where to start

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

Only 13% of the UK population reported having high-levels of mental health - Mental Health Foundation

World Mental Health Day 2017 is dedicated to workplace wellbeing, and I'm over the moon. I believe that organisations are also community hubs and play an important role in helping their people to thrive. It makes business sense too - when our people are thriving, our culture thrives, when our culture is thriving, we have the right energy to build customer loyalty, and that drives sustainable business performance. Our extraordinary vision has become an everyday reality. You can think of it as the wellbeing take on the Service Profit Chain!

Creating an environment that supports good Mental Health, and supporting people to manage their mental health, falls into this camp. Ok, I can see the argument for 'why is it our responsibility?' however the answer to that seems pretty straightforward to me. The majority of our workforce didn't learn about how to manage their mental health at school - it wasn't 'a thing' back then and, as a Millennial myself, I'm quite confident to say that even applies to those of us who joined the workforce within the last 15 years.

I'm not suggesting a hand-holding approach to helping people thrive. That doesn't work. Take away the support and people haven't developed their own resilience toolkit. Instead, I'm an advocate for a ‘coaching’ approach. That means helping individuals and teams find the answers that are right for them through conversation and signposting great resources.

So, what might that look like?

Here’s 5 ideas, and some tried and tested tools, to get started.

Open the conversation – Help remove the stigma attached to mental health in the workplace. I love visiting organisations to run lunch and learn sessions – they take the conversation from behind closed doors to out into the open.

Keep it going – Encourage the conversation to continue with a simple campaign that also develops active listening skills. I highly recommend Mental Health First Aid England's Take 10 Together campaign.

Make a pledge – A public declaration will build credibility around your mental health strategy. Your people and customers will know you're serious. With the Time To Change pledge you'll be joining a movement of like minded employers.

Be prepared – It’s not nice to think that some people working for us may be in mental ‘pain’, however the stats suggest otherwise. 1 in 4 people are diagnosed with a mental health condition every year. Make sure your leaders and HR teams know how to spot early signs/symptoms as well as support employees by training them as Mental Health First Aiders. They even get a certificate!

Think broader than mental health – Wellbeing is holistic and our mental health is impacted by our emotional, physical, financial, social, and purposeful wellbeing too. A more overarching culture check-in can highlight the focus areas for your people needs.

Whatever the right first step is for you, we hope World Mental Health Day has inspired your organisation to thrive.

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