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World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day

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October 10th is dedicated as World Mental Health Day; backed by the World Health Organisation, it exists to reinforce commitment to mental health care.  This day serves to increase awareness and access to support, enabling progress in making good mental health a global human right whilst continuing to remove stigma and discrimination.  The WHO describes mental health as “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”  The WHO calls on all stakeholders to focus on building a network of community support.  Employers are pivotal in this cause, as they hold great ability to promote awareness, engagement and investment in mental health, especially as we face a cost of living crisis and a depletion in government-financed support.

Supporting mental health in the workplace should be a key element in an employer’s wellbeing strategy.  There is a strong business and moral case for organisations to promote good mental health; it is estimated that at least 1 in 6 workers experience some form of mental health problem like anxiety or depression[1], negatively impacting wellbeing as well as work performance.  Mental health support can be integrated into reward and benefit programmes and DE&I strategy, leading to greater productivity, morale and retention, as well as a reduction in both sickness absence and presenteeism.

It is of course worth noting that the coronavirus pandemic also increased the need for support.  On top of the physical health difficulties that many people faced, the pandemic created increased financial pressure for a huge proportion of society, with lockdowns and disruptions to routine causing anxiety, depression and loneliness.  A 2022 CIPD survey showed that 66% of HR professionals were concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on employees’ mental health.[2]  While the pandemic is no longer at its peak, many of its mental health impacts will unfortunately be ongoing, which is something for employers to remain mindful of.

Employers can use World Mental Health Day as an opportunity to refresh and review any existing mental health and wellbeing strategies, and issue communications highlighting support available.

Workplace mental health strategy should focus on:

  • Promoting openness and awareness
  • Improving line manager training to better identify signs of employees struggling with mental health, and to give them the confidence and skills to be able to approach mental health in a productive way
  • Signposting employees to help and support at the earliest opportunity, and best utilising available resources

Many employers now have Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), which provide 24/7 access to confidential helplines and counselling resources.  EAPs are often provided as a complimentary add-on to group insurance policies, and become a no/low-cost frontline resource in any employer-led wellbeing programme. EAPs can boost productivity and job satisfaction, either by helping employees resolve mental health issues directly or guiding them to more appropriate help for more complex and / or chronic mental health circumstances.

Group Income Protection insurers are increasing resources around early intervention, to best prevent or minimise periods of sickness absence (and hopefully prevent claims!).  It is recognised that this can be especially effective for mental health cases, where speedy help is often crucial to successful employee treatment.   Often treatment includes counselling, with cognitive behavioural therapy – now recognised as one of the most effective forms of counselling – increasingly likely to be offered.   Income Protection also provides financial support for the most chronic mental health cases, where long-term absence is unavoidable.

Private Medical Insurance schemes include mental health support, including psychiatric and counselling services.  In many cases self-referral is possible, and treatment can be booked in a matter of days – avoiding NHS delays (particularly post-pandemic, with increased demand for mental health services) and thus best mitigating a deterioration in health.

In the lead up to this year’s Mental Health Day, particularly as many of the coronavirus pandemic’s effects are still felt, employers have an excellent opportunity to reassess their existing mental health policies and programmes, identifying any areas where they might be improved or modified.   Mental Health Day itself is a chance to raise awareness and increase engagement among your employees, highlighting the services you have available and contributing to the de-stigmatisation of discussions around mental health.

[1] https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/
[2] https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/health-wellbeing-work-report-2022_tcm18-108440.pdf