Why employers should do more to understand mental health


A post from our Project Manager Rosie McIntosh @rosiehopes

There’s a story in today’s press about the strain placed on employers by mental health. There’s something about the tone of this story and others like it that doesn’t sit well with me. It always seems that people with mental health problems are being cast as villains, or at least as a bit of a pain.” The poor employers having to put up with pesky mentally ill people taking time off”, seems to be the message. As if employers themselves would never allow themselves to fall prey to such conditions.

Today’s offering looks at research from the EEF manufacturers organisation. If we look beyond the spin (and the insistence on using images of people clutching their heads to represent mental illness), there are some helpful messages in these kinds of stories.

1. We recognise that mental ill health is real and common
1 in 4 of the companies surveyed said that mental ill health was the main cause of long-term employee absence. Yet, if you look at attitudes to mental illness, you’d believe that it’s something rare. We could go a long way towards tackling the stigma attached to mental health problems if we simply remember this. It’s common. It’s not your fault. If you need time off, it’s not a sign of weakness. For most people, it doesn’t last forever.

2. Employers need to do more to understand mental health
Although a third of the organisations surveyed said that they found mental illness the most difficult health problem to manage and adapt to, less than one in ten had offered training on the subject to their managers. There’s a pretty simple message in there. We all need to do more to understand mental health- and educating managers is a good place to start.

3. Promoting wellbeing is better for everyone
Stories that focus on the economic impact of mental illness can be insensitive and stigmatising. But they can also help make the very real case that supporting people isn’t just about being kind to the individual. While there are some people who cannot work because of their mental health ( who should receive a dignified level of benefits to allow them to live a good life), most people can and will get back to work with the right support. If we create a culture that recognises this, it’s better for everyone: the economy, the employers and the everyday people who have mental health problems.




3 Responses to Why employers should do more to understand mental health

  1. Kim Greenwell June 15, 2015 at 11:20 am #

    Treating staff well makes economic sense,
    it means getting the best from your staff.

  2. Amy July 15, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

    Best practice is for mentally healthy workplace/employers to have training on how to support managers in carrying out stress risk assessments when they spot initial signs of work related stress and advice on how to put reasonable adjustments in place. Although the focus is on work related stress, I think that this is a positive step. It helps to prevent a long term sickness absence from happening benefiting the employee and the employer.

    I was off work about 3 years ago due to poor mental health for 6 months. My managers and colleagues were so supportive at all stages of my absence and I still feel supported by them today. It makes me angry that I apear to be the exception and not the norm. It’s 2015. Let’s all work together by using our voices to speak up against stigma surrounding mental health at work. We all have mental health just like we have psychical health.

  3. editor July 16, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    So glad to hear you had a positive experience Amy. This is how it should be. We need to tell the stories of when it worked well.

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