Mental Health in the Workplace

MIND state that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year (See here).

According to a report by Time to Change (See here) attitudes towards mental health are changing for the better although they also state that there is still a long way to go. The number of people acknowledging that they know someone close to them who has had a mental illness increased from 58% in 2009 to 65% in 2014. 40% of people surveyed said they would be comfortable talking to their employer about a mental health problem. Although nearly half (48%) said they would feel uncomfortable (See here).

Therefore, although the situation is improving there is still considerable stigma in relation to mental illness, even though the prevalence is high.

Employers have an important role in supporting employees with mental health problems and it is clearly in their best interests if they choose to do so because of the reasons stipulated below. However according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) just 27% of employers provide access to counselling services and only 19% to an employee assistance programme. Yet in the same survey, nearly half (42%) of the employees reported having mental health problems in the past year (See Therapy Today on pp5 here).

Stress can be a key element in exacerbating existing mental health issues and persistent exposure to stress may in itself lead to mental and physical ill-health. ‘Stress can affect people mentally in the form of anxiety and depression, and physically in the form of heart disease, back pain and alcohol and drug dependency’ (See ACAS Advisory Booklet: Stress at work).

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) define stress as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them”. According to the HSE stress accounted for 37% of all work related health cases and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health in 2015/16 (See here).

The impact of stress on a person’s performance at work therefore can be profound and can lead to:

  • Deteriorating relationships between staff, within the team and with customers,
  • Increasing anxiety leading to irritability and argumentativeness,
  • Indecisiveness,
  • Absenteeism (according to the HSE on average each person suffering from stress took 24 days off work),
  • Reduced performance,
  • Changed moods and behaviours.

There are a number of legal obligations that an organisation needs to adhere to in relation to health and well-being at work.

  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – which places a general duty on the employer to ensure that significant and foreseen risks are managed, and that safe systems are provided to employees,
  • The Management of Health and Safety regulations (1999) – which specifically require employers to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments,
  • Working Time Regs (1998),
  • The Disability Discrimination Act (1995),
  • The HSE Management Standards (2004).

Further information on the CIPD website (See here).

It therefore makes sound business and legal sense to provide a range of interventions to proactively support the health and well-being of all employees.

In addition to specific interventions designed to reduce workplace stress the CIPD recommend the following interventions to help build workforce resilience:

  • stress management and relaxation techniques training,
  • training aimed at building personal resilience (such as coping techniques, cognitive behaviour therapy, positive psychology courses),
  • promoting healthy behaviour and exercise,
  • flexible working options and improved work-life balance,
  • personal counselling schemes.

Gateway Therapy can provide a range of effective interventions designed to promote positive emotional health and well-being within the workforce including:

  • a confidential, safe and professional counselling service for your employees,
  • coaching sessions for individual staff,
  • training sessions to teach staff practical ways to manage stress and negative thoughts,
  • facilitating small group work in specific areas e.g. listening skills and supporting others at work; work-life balance; self-care, etc.

Specific areas of emotional help and support include:

  • Stress and Resilience,
  • Depression and Anxiety,
  • Bullying,
  • Bereavement and Loss,
  • Relationship Difficulties,
  • Dealing with Negative Coping Strategies.