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21 Jul 2022
by Shamira Graham

How to foster a culture that supports mental wellbeing in the workplace

Business leaders must learn to engage in conversations about mental health and offer the help employees need

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Many factors can influence an individual’s overall wellbeing, including fulfilment in work, financial security, emotional and mental health.

For too long, talking about mental health in the workplace has been taboo, especially when people are worried about potential negative consequences once they have disclosed personal information to their employers.

It is vitally important that business leaders learn to engage in conversations about mental health and offer the targeted support employees need to be happy and productive in their roles.

Worried about opening up

Nuffield Health’s Healthier Nation Index survey found that 66% of people would not talk about their mental health struggles with their employer. It also found that despite 37% of respondents saying their mental health had worsened over the last year, a third were not offered any mental health support or emotional wellbeing resources in the workplace.

There are many factors that can cause an employee to not open up about their mental health struggles in the workplace. These include some common beliefs and societal perceptions, such as:

Their decision making will be questioned

• Fear that they will be judged if they need to take time off over a mental health issue.

• Colleagues will have to pick up the extra workload to support them, which will cause resentment 

• Colleagues may treat you differently and worry about saying the wrong thing 

• It’s a ‘home’ issue, not a ‘work’ issue 

• Fear that they will be seen as weak or a failure

• Experiencing subconscious bias from managers 

• Fear of discrimination/lack of belonging

• Fear of their career being affected and that they will get overlooked for promotions or new roles

It’s time to get rid of the fear and stigma. Employers have an opportunity to dispel these myths by making conversations surrounding mental health at work the norm. 

Start with the right mental health training

Often line managers and business leaders can feel uncomfortable starting a conversation about mental health or worry about giving the ‘wrong’ response if someone does disclose their mental health issues to them. 

Basic mental health training for all employees can help dispel these fears. 

Providing specific training for line managers and those responsible for others’ welfare can also be invaluable. 

Mental health training for line managers should include: 

• How to spot behavioural changes and symptoms if an employee suffers from mental health issues 

• How to talk about it and what words are best to use/avoid

• Workplace adjustments and return to work – training for managers to help people stay at work where possible or integrate them back into the team for an effective and successful return to work

Make sure you provide ongoing support 

Once the conversation has started with an employee about mental health, it’s essential to keep it going. One solution may be to put a buddy system in place, offering employees access to those who have received mental health training or have experience and can act as a friend, mentor or guide. 

More structured support may also be available. For example, corporate medical insurance policies can often fund cognitive behavioural therapy for insured employees.

Partnering with a mental health provider can provide psychological support services. 

Employers who take mental health and wellbeing seriously send out a clear message about the organisation’s values and show that they care, respect and support employees. 

There are so many ways that employers can improve the experience and lives of the people who work for them. through mental health training, we can learn to be allies for our employees, so they don’t feel like they’re enduring challenges on their own.

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In partnership with Onebright Mental Health

Onebright is a personalised on-demand mental healthcare company.

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