Work-related stress and anxiety are estimated to be the second biggest occupational health problem in the UK and the government has now recognised the importance of mental health with Theresa May saying that “as a society we must face up to the fact mental health problems are everyone’s problem.” This includes employers. If your employees are suffering with mental health issues then as an employer there are measures you should take.
It is often assumed that people with mental health problems cannot work but this is untrue and in fact the majority of people with mental health problems are treated by their GP and are capable of continuing to work productively. Evidence shows that employment can actually be of great benefit in these cases.
There may however be situations where employees are struggling with mental health and their work is affected. In these cases it is important that managers are:
- able to recognise signs of stress and have some understanding of possible ill-health outcomes.
- able to communicate effectively, including being able to listen to distressed individuals,
- equipped with the more practical skills of carrying out a risk assessment.
It is also important that:
- systems and procedures are in place at work to minimise the risk of pressures creating stress, and leading to ill health.
- managers and employees know what precautions can help.
In order to tackle mental health problems a company should focus on the following:
- prevention of the development of mental health problems or the reduction of known risks is key. This is done by working to create good workplaces and good jobs, excellent leaders and supportive/competent managers, and by educating people for the job.
- early identification of those at risk to prevent escalation, to build resilience and allow early intervention.
- intervention which is aimed at resolving mental health and wellbeing problems quickly to help maintain people at work or return people to work as soon as they feel able.
By Rachel Hamill – Health & Safety Adviser