Nurturing Minds: Prioritising mental health awareness in the workplace

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This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, and it presents HR with a means of opening up the conversation, providing advice and signposting people towards relevant resources and helps break the stigma of mental health at work.

It might seem that we are always talking about this subject, but the reality is, it IS a problem. In fact, 1 in 6 people experience mental health problems in the workplace and women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men. In fact, poor mental health accounts for more than half of all work-related illnesses. But why is mental health so hard to manage especially while we so diligently attend to our physical health?

A recent report from Personnel Today found that almost half of UK workers are ‘running on empty,’ with burnout, mental ill health, and work-related stress now costing the economy £28 billion annually. The Mental Health Foundation Association has also found that a third of managers feel out of their depth supporting their team with mental health concerns, which begs the question; so if there is no education, how can employees expect to open up to their bosses?

There are lots of ways that HR can help cultivate a supportive environment for everyone.

1. Facts speak for themselves
Did you know that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the UK experiences mental illness in a given year? It is not a niche issue; it’s something many of us grapple with daily and the workplace is no exception. Research suggests that work-related stress contributes to 120,000 deaths annually and accounts for up to £190 billion in healthcare costs.

2. Breaking the stigma, one conversation at a time
Remember the days when discussing mental health at work was a rarity? Times have thankfully changed. We are starting to normalise conversations around mental health but more encouragement is needed. Open dialogue helps reduce the stigma and fosters a culture of support and understanding. After all, we spend a significant chunk of our lives at work, so why not make it a safe space to talk about our mental wellbeing?

3. Putting words into action: Practical steps for a healthier workplace
So, how do we walk the talk? Start by implementing mental health initiatives like flexible work arrangements to alleviate some of the pressure for workers with family or care commitments, employee assistance programmes (EAPs) to get practical support from trained professionals provided by your employer, mindfulness workshops where employees can learn . Foster a culture of empathy and understanding where team members feel comfortable seeking support when needed. And let’s not forget about self-care! Encourage breaks, promote work-life balance, and lead by example. Remember, a happy and mentally healthy workforce is a productive one.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, why don’t you pledge to do more to raise awareness, break down barriers, and take proactive steps towards making your workplace more inclusive for those who suffer with mental health issues.

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