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Managing mental health in the workplace

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Despite increasing awareness and diminishing stigma over mental health issues. Managers still need to do more to protect their and their staff’s mental wellbeing at work.

One in six employees at any time is dealing with a mental health issue such as depression, anxiety or stress, so this is no longer a fringe issue. According to the OECD in 2014, the estimated cost to the UK economy of failing to address these issues is in the region of £70 billion a year – around 4.5% of Britain’s GDP. Indeed, Dame Carol Black, a senior advisor at the department of health, has said that mental health problems now account for 38% of working days lost a year.

Tips on how to manage mental health in the office

1) Recognise: Many employees don’t feel comfortable about sharing mental health issues with their managers, colleagues or even HR professionals.  Managers can be helped to recognise the signs of deteriorating mental health: such as changes in a colleague’s energy levels, low mood or sadness, having no motivation, being restless or unusually irritable. 

2) Respond: Managers have a responsibility to create a positive and healthy work culture and lead by example in maintaining good work life balance. They should ensure openness in communication about mental health problems, be willing to broach the subject and offer appropriate support even if in the first instance that is just listening.  

3) Refer: No matter how effective a line manager is in promoting the wellbeing of those around them, there are times when employees will need more specialist and professional support. Employers can help line managers by ensuring they know about the range of resources available to employees – in and out of work – and can advise on how these may be accessed. Offering a range of ways for employees to be referred, or self-referred, will help them get the support they require more quickly.

As part of ILM’s commitment to tackling mental health awareness in working life, we have recently embarked on a partnership with Maudsley Learning to offer units to staff of all levels in recognising and managing mental health, both their own and their employees’. These will be offered through nine of ILM’s most popular qualifications.

Kate Cooper

By Kate Cooper

Kate is head of head of research & policy at ILM

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