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If the UK’s workplaces want to achieve the goal of having happier, healthier and more productive environments they need to address mental health in the workplace. Mental health charity Mind reports that even though the incidence of mental health issues is not increasing, our ability to cope is diminishing, as more people are self-harming or having suicidal thoughts*. They estimate that in the UK one in four will experience a mental health problem each year.

In order to support staff, reduce absence and improve productivity, employers need to do more to support the mental health and not just the physical wellbeing of staff. There are a wealth of solutions and services on the market that HR managers can use to build a support package including:

Debt management and counselling – finances are one of the greatest sources of stress
Employee assistance programmes
Fast-track access to counselling
Private medical insurance
Group risk products

There are also mental health training courses available in the market that offer another approach to tackling this important issue. In this article, I wanted to share our recent experience of rolling out one such course at The Health Insurance Group.

We advise clients on mental health support, and in our own organisation we are committed to rolling out the same best practices we recommend, so that our staff are well supported too. We asked Mind to run a mental health training session for our managers.

We decided to offer this training to our line managers specifically because they are normally the first point of contact when an employee is struggling with their mental health. We wanted our managers to be able to notice mental health problems and proactively manage them.

The course is designed to equip participants to spot the symptoms and signs of stress and mental ill health, be aware of the causes and triggers, better understand the link between mental and physical health, and build greater awareness of the impact of mental health problems on performance.

Sixteen managers and team leaders joined the training on 13 March. As a result, the participants have:

Increased their knowledge and awareness of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace
Developed the confidence to proactively manage and address issues
Gained a deeper understanding of the causes of workplace mental ill health
Learned how to reduce the causes of workplace mental ill health
Improved their ability to take positive steps in creating resilience and support

The participants felt the course was very worthwhile, and I believe it will have an impact on the support we are able to offer to our staff in the future. I would definitely encourage other employers to consider this type of training but it’s important that it is offered as a part of a broader health and wellbeing programme. In order to select the appropriate support and training a review needs to be carried out first to identify the unique needs and most prevalent risks of any given workplace.

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind also believes training of this kind has an important part to play in improving mental health in the workplace. “We would encourage all employers to train their staff in mental health awareness. Training is just one of many things forward-thinking employers can and should be doing in order to create mentally healthy workplaces. It’s also really important that organisations work towards tackling the work-related causes of stress and poor mental health at work, promoting good mental health for all employees, and supporting staff experiencing a mental health problem.”

Mental ill health continues to be a significant concern for employers, it can affect morale, productivity and staff engagement. Training is a good tool that HR departments should consider as a part of the support they put in place for health and wellbeing.

* https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/statistics-and-facts-about-mental-health/how-common-are-mental-health-problems/#.WstubWeWyM9

Brett Hill – Managing Director, The Health Insurance Group

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