Political literacy advocate and Shout Out UK founder Matteo Bergamini explores what businesses should be doing to help employees with mental health issues.
Mental health has always had a stigma attached to it. This is an unfortunate truth, however in recent years, people have begun to openly discuss it in a bid to understand and accept it more.
The government has recently allocated £200,000 to train secondary school teachers to identify and deal with mental health problems in students. However, this has not been extended to primary school teachers or business owners; but shouldn’t everyone in a senior position be trained to recognise mental health issues and the best way to help?
As another generation prepares to enter the workplace, businesses need to ensure they are equipped to support employees with mental health problems, 68% of 16-24 year olds have told us that they worry their mental health problems will be a barrier to them getting work. This means that employers could be missing out on key talent in the process.
According to mental health charity, MIND, one in six workers are dealing with a mental health problem. This is a large percentage of the population and some people might not know where to go to get help, or even be motivated enough to seek the help they need.
It is crucial that this is when an employer steps in. A manager should be trained in knowing the signs of mental health problems, such as slower work output and drastic changes in mood, and be able to deal with them effectively by having a clear mental health strategy that can be implemented when staff are clearly struggling.
I believe that mental health is not talked about enough, not in school and definitely not in the workplace, which is shocking considering how many people suffer with it. People who have a loved one who suffers with mental health can also be affected, which can, in turn, impact them at work.
In my judgement, part of the issue is the lack of funding and facilities for mental health. Mental health issues like depression are on the rise, especially amongst young people, and it’s one of the biggest issues we are facing as a society. It needs to be discussed as a matter of urgency, which is why we thought it was important that we created a video addressing it, that will also raise awareness.
Our head of creative at Shout Out UK, Patrick Ireland, suffers from depression and was paramount in making this short film, “I wanted to make a film that felt real and captured the aesthetic of what living with mental health issues feels is like," he said.
As a result of employers understanding mental health and the way it impacts a person’s mood and mental capability, it will create a healthy environment that will, in the long run, be more cost effective and efficient, as organisations perform better when staff are healthy, motivated and focused.
The government offers an ‘Access to Work’ grant, which can help pay for counselling or job coaching for people with mental health. This is certainly an option for employers to consider when an employee has mental health, as it ensures consistent support for them from outside the workplace.
Employers should also try to go above their duty of care at the workplace and make sure their employees have support outside of the office as well. Employers could also endeavour to find out if the community has any support systems for people with mental health and if not, ask the local MP why there isn’t one.
The most important thing an employer can do for their employees is to create an open environment where staff feel comfortable enough to discuss their mental health. By discussing mental health, it shows it’s not a taboo subject and something that is not to be ashamed about if you do, in fact, suffer from it.
I am always trying to make sure that mental health is spoken about openly and lobby the government for more funding and facilities for it, as I believe that mental health is just as important as physical health and is a condition that we should all be compassionate about, especially in the workplace.
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