Undeniably there has been real, long overdue culture change around mental health in recent years. But in the same week that Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain has spoken candidly about her battle with anxiety, thousands of people will take time off because they just can’t face going into work.
Stigma still exists – and often it’s in the workplace that we feel least comfortable being open about our own mental health.
We’ve all seen the evidence about how endemic poor mental health is, with one in four people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year.
While many employers have already made mental health a workplace priority, Mental Health Awareness Week is a good time to ask yourself some questions.
Is your business doing enough to support employee mental health? And do line managers know where to go for support?
Fortunately, you’re not alone. We’ve already worked with thousands of employers to offer tailored support, helping to ensure everybody can thrive in the workplace.
As a former business owner myself, I know that small changes can have a big impact when it comes to workplace adjustments.
You may have heard of our Access to Work scheme which pays for the workplace adjustments disabled people need to do their job, such as travel to work or sign language interpreters. Access to Work has a dedicated mental health support service which is delivered by Remploy and Able Futures and funded by the Government.
The service offers free, individualised workplace support from an experienced mental health practitioner for a period of six months for employees who have had workplace absence or are struggling to stay in work because of their mental health.
This could include introducing coping strategies, a tailored plan to keep the employee in work or help them return to work, ideas for workplace adjustments to help them fulfil their role, and practical advice and support.
A staggering 91 per cent of people who have used the service are still in their job six months later. This is particularly impressive given that an estimated 300,000 people with a mental health condition lose their job every year. It goes to show that many of those people could have stayed in work if they were only given the right support.
This isn’t about forcing people to stay in work if that won’t be good for their mental health. But we know that for many of us, good work is good for our mental health. We should support those who want to continue working because of the many benefits it can bring, whether that’s socialising with colleagues or achieving a sense of personal fulfilment.
Not only will the individual benefit, but your business will be better off for retaining valued employees.
As always, I’m keen to hear from more businesses about how they’ve supported employee mental health. What has worked for your organisation?
Justin Tomlinson is Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work