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Foster a culture that supports mental health conversations

10 September 2019 / Workplace wellbeing

A key focus for HR professionals around the world in 2019 is how they can foster a culture that supports mental health conversations. Mental health matters and it’s time for employers to understand the role that they play in supporting their employees through difficult times.

In recent years, the stigma relating to mental health or speaking openly about it has improved – especially with the work of initiatives like R U OK? or World Mental Health Day. This conversation has made its way to the workplace with employers realising that the expectations that are now placed on employees with long hours, high stress and the notion of always being ‘on’ is having an impact mental health. It’s now more important than ever to ensure that employees feel supported and have the ability to ask for help if they need it.

It’s estimated that 18% of people worldwide are currently experiencing a mental health issue1 and at least 1 in 4 people will experience a significant mental health problem in their lifetime.2 These statistics are huge and are increasing, so it’s important to know what to look out for in the workplace so that you can identify when an employee might be having a difficult time or suffering from a mental health problem.

Signs that someone might be struggling with their mental health

  • They are socially withdrawnMental health matters
  • Their mood is different
  • They’re less productive
  • Their concentration is reduced
  • A lack of motivation
  • Tired all the time
  • Noticeably more irritable
  • They’re anxious or worried a lot

Employees may not initially feel comfortable to go to their Manager or HR team to ask for help. So as an employer or colleague, what can you do to help?

  • Implement a wellbeing strategy that has the ability to improve all areas of health
  • Foster a culture that supports open and honest conversations
  • Get your C-suite to prioritise mental health in the employee management and wellbeing strategy
  • Train line managers to recognise the signs and train them on how to have empathetic and supportive conversations with employees
  • For businesses that have a 24/7 approach or unusual hours, ensure that the impact on employees’ personal time is manageable and fair
  • Allow flexible working arrangements
  • Encourage good sleeping habits
  • Recognise and reward good behaviours or achievements

In essence, employers should be fostering a culture where colleagues feel comfortable to ask each other if they’re okay and support them if they are struggling with their mental health. As an employer or colleague, if you don’t feel equipped to help or support the person it’s best that you refer them to an Employee Assistance Program or licensed professional. Sometimes the simple gesture of someone showing that they care can be all someone needs to seek help or advice.

To get a more in depth understanding of mental health in the workplace and around the world, download our latest ebook.

1. World Health Organization, Mental Disorders, 2018.
2. World Health Organization, Mental disorders affect one in four people, 2001.

 

 

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