Recent research indicates that 1 in 4 people will suffer from some form of mental illness during their lifetime. In addition, suicide is now the leading cause of death for men under 50. Statistics like this show that mental health is a real issue for concern in today’s society, but how does that affect you as an employer? Research by CentreForum has found that mental health problems cost UK employers £26 billion each year, averaging in excess of £1,000 per employee. Whatever size employer you are, this is clearly an issue you need to be aware of.
What is mental health?
Mental health covers a variety of illnesses ranging from anxiety and depression through to more severe conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Not all disorders will qualify as a disability. However, the condition may do so if it is a mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse affect on the individual’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The effect must have lasted for 12 months or be likely to last 12 months or likely to last for the rest of the life of the person affected.
Mental health conditions can affect anyone and there is no stereotypical person who is likely to experience a mental health illness (though risk factors may make some people more likely to be affected than others). Many individuals suffering from a mental illness will be capable of continuing to work though it is still important for businesses to know how to manage such individuals and their condition.
How should you approach mental health in your workplace?
Early identification and providing timely advice and support is critical. Many organisations need to raise awareness of mental health and to remove the stigma attached to it; being prepared for that change in culture to be led from the top. This can be carried out in a variety of ways:
· implement a Wellness Policy;
· include guidance in employees’ inductions about who they should approach if they have any mental health concerns and what avenues of advice and support are available; and
· arrange training for line managers, to ensure that they have the confidence and tools to recognise and address mental health issues as they arise.
Some organisations are now looking into the progressive step of training and appointment of Mental Health First Aiders or Champions. These are individuals who are trained and appointed within the organisation to identify, help and understand individuals who are affected by mental health conditions. Organisations that adopt approaches like this are noticing a significant reduction in the absence rate for stress and anxiety within their organisation. You can find information on training courses on the Mental Health First Aid Website: http://mhfaengland.org/.
Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” guide on assisting employees. Each individual and their needs will be different and it is important that you seek medical and legal advice, as necessary, whenever you have concerns. A proactive plan of action that can be developed with the employee is always preferable to a responsive plan once an employee is absent on long-term sickness.
If you have any concerns regarding mental health in the workplace or would like to arrange in-house training for your management team, then please feel free to contact the Employment Team on 01392 210700 or firstname.lastname@example.org