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Increasingly, the wellbeing remit focuses on supporting the mental health of employees and not just their physical health.

There is a close relationship between physical and mental health and more support is needed to improve mental health. Mental ill health is estimated to be costing the UK over £33 million a year*. This blog aims to provide HR managers with four ways to promote better mental health by making better use of what processes and services that may already be in place.

1. Review your company’s mental health landscape
Start by understanding the current situation so that you can identify what is needed, prioritise your activity and track the results. If you use employee surveys, consider adding questions to help you to understand the current attitudes to mental ill health and find out what issues staff are experiencing. The results can help you to identify common mental health problems, spot patterns and gauge how good or bad the current situation is. Armed with this knowledge you can start to make sure the support you have in place will meet the organisation’s needs.

2. Use existing benefits and insurance
You may not need to buy additional support services to improve your staff’s mental health. There may be a number of effective solutions already available within your existing employee benefits. Check with your service provider what provision for mental ill health is already included.

Employee assistance programmes often include mental health support. Some provide 24/7 helplines and access to counselling. Group risk protection benefits and private medical insurance may also include mental health support services.

3. Communicate and promote the support you offer
It may be that you already have a range of support services available but if your staff don’t know about it or feel uncomfortable accessing it then it won’t help. Run an awareness campaign to promote the support you offer and consider activities that can be run at regular intervals throughout the year to address specific issues your staff may be facing.

4. Train managers to tackle mental health issues
Managers are critical in making happier and healthier workplaces because struggling employees usually turn to them first. It’s important to create an environment where staff will to speak to their managers. It is worrying that 30 per cent** of employees say they wouldn’t feel able to talk openly with a line manager if they were feeling stressed. Good training can change this.

Make sure that your management training includes mental health aspects. Train managers to recognise early signs of mental health problems, start discussions and offer support. This will help them to intervene early and may prevent issues from escalating. It will also help break down the stigma of talking about mental health.

Promoting better mental health in the workplace does not necessarily mean introducing a lot of new services. By reviewing the current situation, making better use of existing services and specifically training managers to address mental health problems I believe HR managers can make a significant impact on the health, happiness and productivity in their workplace.

Brett Hill – Managing Director, The Health Insurance Group

*www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/658145/thriving-at-work-stevenson-farmer-review.pdf

**www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-your-staff/

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