Mental Health in the Workplace
Back in 1946 Roffey Park was set up to help those traumatised by the war years to return to and thrive in the workplace. The people helped then were suffering from a range of mental health illness including depression, anxiety and PTSD. It was a revolutionary concept as participants were encouraged to share their experiences and the holistic approach combined medicine with diet as well as physical exercise. Fast forward 70 years and mental health is still a dominant issue in the workplace.
How can I improve mental health at work?
I was recently one of several managers and staff at Roffey Park who attended the MHFA England Mental Health First Aid training . Their ALGEE Action Plan is an effective approach to provide the skills, knowledge and understanding of first aid for mental health and how to support those who need it. And it starts with a conversation, simple right?
Talking about mental health is often a huge hurdle for people particularly at work where there is fear of stigma that will impact on their working life. Our own research shows positive signs that this hurdle may not be as high as before. 72% of our UK survey participants who feel comfortable in talking about their own mental health issues which is similar to the data from our Australian survey (75%). In Asia Pacific there are encouraging signs of improvement with 1 in 2 of our survey who feel able to express how they are feeling.
But what happens then?
According to the Farmer Review, only 24% of managers receive any training on mental health at work which means they don’t feel equipped to provide support in case they do the wrong thing. In Asia Pacific our own research found that the stigma of mental health is still a huge issue with Singaporean survey participants saying their organisation offers no support at all – compared to just 3% of Australians.
But broadly our global research from 2018 and 2019 shows a more positive picture of the support available in organisations with 65% of managers feeling equipped but it still leaves 35% of managers unsure on how to respond.
“Every one of us will have the knowledge, tools and confidence, to understand and look after our own mental health and the mental health of those around us.”
This is the vision set out by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer in their review of mental health and one we can all aspire to. Managers play a crucial role in organisations, but management practice needs to look beyond output and productivity. A positive working environment that is safe, fair, which provides opportunity and purpose should be available for all. As managers we can make a huge difference to anyone struggling with mental health by simply starting a conversation, listening and providing support.
Mental health may not be as much of a taboo as it was when Roffey Park began in 1946 and the future of work may not be just about being the spies, space cadets and vegan farmers that the world may need in years to come. And who knows what the impact of AI will have in the future workplace but the anxiety and pressure faced today is unlikely to fade.
Simply feeling enpowered and confident to provide better initial support to people developing mental health issues or who are in mental health crisis is something we can all do.