Managing workplace mental health: the power of high-quality training

Mental ill-health is responsible for almost 13% of all sickness absence days in the UK, while it has been shown that UK businesses could save up to £8 billion per year through better mental health wellbeing support in the workplace. Lottie Galvin from eLearning platform iHASCO explains how.

Just like our physical health, our mental health is something that we all have to look after. Now that society’s attitudes are changing for the better, it’s understood by many that mental health is a very real and active part of our lives – whether we’re paying attention to it or not. But when we don’t pay attention to something that actually needs it – like an urgent email from a client, an unpaid bill or a child in distress – there are consequences.

This is why the impact of honest and open conversations about mental health cannot be underestimated. Talking about it is a vital step towards normalising the importance of wellbeing in our culture. And employers can take it one step further by investing in their employees’ wellbeing. After all – without a happy and healthy workforce, how can a business expect to run at all, let alone operate efficiently or even grow and develop?

Many are already acknowledging the importance of mental health in their organisation, as well as taking steps to raise awareness about how their employees can work with any pressing issues, through the means of company policies, HR teams, and supportive management. However, there is much more that can be done to instil better mental health practices within the UK workforce. A big (yet simple) first step can be taken by introducing mandatory mental health training into your workplace.

With this in mind, iHASCO believes that online training of this nature truly can, and does, make a genuine difference. We can report this with confidence, as over 20,000 people who have completed our range of Mental Health Awareness courses agree.

The sectors most in need of reform

Some industries in the UK are more at risk of workplace-induced mental ill health. One of these sectors is education. Often overworked and under-supported, teachers are faced with relentless challenges; including the education and safeguarding of their students, lesson planning, marking, long working days, and meeting the high standards set by governing bodies. When we stop to think about it, it’s no surprise that the stress created by this has a detrimental impact on their wellbeing

Last year, The Independent reported that over half of the teachers that took part in a survey had been diagnosed with a mental illness. The results of another 2018 survey were equally concerning. The figures showed that a total of 1.3 million sick days were taken by teachers in the past four years as a result of poor mental health wellbeing – including stress, anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, 3,750 teachers were signed off on long-term sick leave due to work pressures and mental illness.

Mental ill health is also a common problem in the construction sector. As a predominantly male industry, construction’s ‘macho-culture’ can make it very difficult for men to speak up and ask for help even when they desperately need it. Poor mental health in this sector was the cause of over 1,400 suicides during a five-year period.

The main contributions to this devastating statistic include heavy workloads, long working hours, carrying out high-risk tasks, the lack of routine, frequent travelling, being separated from family, and working in isolation. As construction workers are also contract-based, anxiety can be triggered by a lack of job security or steady paycheck, tight deadlines and restrictive budgeting costs.

A 2017 survey by CN’s Mind Matters revealed that 55% of construction workers had experienced poor mental health, with 82% admitting that there is a taboo surrounding mental ill health in construction. Many of those who have suffered in the past now admit they had done so in silence.

The care industry is another sector that urgently needs to improve the mental health of its workers across the UK. Being a carer is an immensely challenging job, both physically and emotionally. Eighty-four per cent of carers report that they feel stressed, 78% suffer from anxiety, and 55% report that they have suffered from depression as a result of their work.

Whether it’s due to being overworked, underpaid, or overwhelmed by the responsibility – or exposure to sickness and death – that commonly comes with the job, care workers operate in an extremely stressful environment. The heartbreaking reality is that the care sector has a suicide rate that’s almost twice as high as the national average.

It’s crucial for employers to implement frameworks and procedures that will protect the wellbeing of their employees. If these statistics don’t improve (and quickly) can we expect people to continue pursuing careers in this industry? The likes of which we all rely on.

Really and truly, what do any of us have without our good mental and physical health?

Investing in mental health training: it’s a no brainer

Over 15 million working days are lost in the UK each year due to poor mental health, and it costs the UK economy an estimated £94 billion annually. This makes mental health training far more than just a nice gesture – it makes it fundamental influence on the productivity of every employee as well as the prosperity of every business. Investing in employee wellbeing is certainly justified.

Mental health training may not provide all the answers, but it does offer a much-needed change of perspective. It has the power to transform an organisation by improving each employee’s mindset and empowering them to take control of their mental health both at work and outside of it.

Business owners should take an honest look at how they are treating their staff and the impact that this treatment may be having. Are the workloads achievable? Do employees get the support and encouragement that they need? Is management aware of strained working relationships or any workplace bullying or harassment? Employers need to have a genuine understanding of how crucial good mental health is and how far their positive and proactive approach will filter through the whole organisation.

Though it may sound simple, the truth is that an open and supportive culture is a key ingredient to a successful business. High-quality training allows businesses to truly gauge this. Organisations are one step ahead if they encourage their employees to talk about how they feel and create an environment where guidance, solutions and appropriate confidentiality are offered. This extends to making sure that those in leadership roles are trained to identify signs of mental ill health and are equipped with guidance on how to handle these situations.

WHSmith is an organisation leading by example. Through significant investment, it has trained 1,100 line managers as mental health first aiders. By placing importance on both mental and physical health, it has placed itself in a strong position to maintain a healthier workforce in the short and long-term.

The truth is, for every £1 an organisation invests into the mental health and wellbeing of their employees, they can expect to see an average return of £4.20! Investing in workplace mental health training is beneficial to all involved because employees feel supported and valued, and businesses benefit from improved productivity and loyalty as a result.

The game changers are here, and they are successfully breaking down the age-old stigma surrounding mental health by accepting the part it plays in their lives and their businesses. Are you one of them? If you act now, your employees and the organisation alike will reap immediate and long-term rewards.

Lottie Galvin

Lottie Galvin, Mental Health First Aider at iHASCO

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