Why a holistic solution is needed to address the UK’s mental health decline
Mental wellbeing is declining. In the UK, each year, one in four people will experience a mental health issue. One in five have suicidal thoughts, with one in 15 attempting to take their own lives.
The stigma around mental health needs to be broken to allow people to talk freely and have better access to care.
Many factors effect a population’s wellbeing – everyone has different circumstances with triggers and tolerances. However, after Covid-19, Brexit and the war in Ukraine, there is now an ongoing cost of living crisis in the UK.
As a result, 77% of people over the age of 16 report feeling ‘very’ or ‘somewhat worried’ about the rising cost of living. Of these, 50% say they worry every day. Worrying about finances can have a detrimental impact on mental wellbeing, for the whole family.
Increased and growing social and economic inequalities, uncertain and extended conflicts, violence and public health emergencies “threaten progress towards improved wellbeing”, according to the World Health Organization.
As the factors determining mental health are multi-sectoral, interventions to promote and protect mental health and wellbeing should take a multi-sectoral approach as people with mental health conditions often require services and support that extends beyond clinical treatment .
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Employee wellbeing is suffering
A report from Business in the Community (BITC) and Mercer Marsh Benefits revealed that 39% of workers in the UK experienced symptoms of poor mental health as “a direct result” of their job, highlighting the need for better working environments and changes to business cultures.
In 2021, poor mental health/wellbeing accounted for almost one-fifth of all work absences in the UK, says mental health charity Mind. UK employees took more than 319 million days off work in 2021, at an estimated cost of £43bn. And 54% of those that take two or more mental health related absences will proceed to leave their jobs in the future .
Ensuring the right type of help and support is only one piece of the puzzle. Managers and senior staff have a responsibility for their team’s wellbeing. It is crucial that line managers have ongoing support and training to be able to recognise early warning signs and prevent further issues developing, or even how to open up mental health dialogue in a safe environment.
Meanwhile, 60% of managers have had no workplace training on how to handle mental health and wellbeing issues (8). Managers should not be expected to be mental health experts, but it is important to equip them with the right skills to help their teams. For example, 62% of managers have faced situations where they put the organisational interests above the wellbeing of their colleagues, according to the BITC report .
Find an holistic solution to a holistic problem
Offering enhanced and robust coverage with increased financial protection or awareness will help reduce inequalities in mental health and help close the care gap for many in need of support. Tailoring offerings to your organisation will enable higher adoption.
Physical care can include digital gyms or nutritional advice, mental wellbeing offerings could offer structured therapy or coaching to further enhance accessibility and encourage those who have reservations to prioritise their mental health.
It is important to create or enhance business culture to be open and encourage open communication to get a clear picture of everyone’s wellbeing and avoid people feeling isolated. Furthermore, including training into your offering may help focus on manager’s or HR’s specific wellbeing needs – for example how to recognise early warning signs, how to regulate emotions in work in response to known stressors, how to open a safe dialogue about mental health.
Greater flexibility in wellness offerings helps ease the pressure for those wanting to work from home to save on the commute, or those wanting to work in the office to save on bills. It helps protect those in employment balancing work, care and child responsibilities. Flexibility helps attract new talent and keeps existing employees satisfied, reducing turnover rates all round.
A spectrum of wellbeing services is required to support your employees for wherever they are on the wellness spectrum.
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