Mental Health in the Workplace

On Wednesday 3 April, we held our second wellbeing event, Mental Health in the Workplace, as part of a series of events for our HR Network and were joined by 60 attendees.

Delivered in collaboration with KX Recruit, the event explored the impact of mental health on the workplace and ways organisations can promote the positive mental health of their employees. This is a key topic for the Network, which comprises HR professionals working at businesses in the King’s Cross, Euston and St Pancras area.  

The event was led by Dr Beverley Flint and Dr Lisa Cohen, Clinical Psychologists at the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust who also provide NHS expertise to the workforce as part of C&I Wellbeing.

They revealed that mental illness is the largest single cause of disability in the UK. Of people working in England, 15% have symptoms of a mental health problem and 60% of those employees indicate work as a contributing factor when experiencing a mental health problem. The effects on workplaces are staggering, with the cost of mental health deemed to be between £33bn to £42bn a year.

In the context of such statistics, Drs Flint and Cohen called for the change we need to see in workplaces by presenting the Mental Health Core Standards, as set out in the Thriving at Work Review, before detailing the seven barriers that exist to achieving real change.

Stigma remains the key barrier to change and is pervasive throughout our workforces. It is experienced by many as more detrimental than the actual symptoms of mental health and is, alongside discrimination, likely to be experienced by 9 out of 10 people with a mental health problem.

The common myths and misconceptions that contribute to stigma were challenged by our facilitators and this allowed them to open up the question to attendees on what mental health means to them. The World Health Organisation’s definition provided a useful starting point for discussions.

Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community. (World Health Organisation, 2014)

Lack of awareness is another key barrier to change and it was only fitting that we made the audience aware of the common mental health disorders that will affect one in four people at some point. These are stress, anxiety, depression, mixed anxiety and depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and psychosis.

For an audience of HR professionals, stress is a key concern in the workplace and is indelibly linked to performance. However, it is not a formal mental health diagnosis, despite accounting for 40% of all work-related illness. Our audience learned about the cause and effects of stress before hearing more general information about anxiety and depression.

Once the event had explored the current context and conditions of mental health, it was time to call for action. How can we, as individuals, look after our own mental health? By following the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ put forth by the New Economics Foundation: Connect, Be Active, Keep Learning, Give to Others and Be Mindful/Take Notice.

Coupled with employers’ support, this framework allows people with mental health disorders to flourish. Employers have a legal obligation to take reasonable care of the safety of their employees, as confirmed by workplace legislation including 2010’s The Equality Act. By making reasonable adjustments and following steps to implement the aforementioned Mental Health Core Standards, they are not only fulfilling these obligations but will significantly reduce the cost to their business of an unhealthy workplace.

Urban Partners is proud to have delivered such a stirring event for both individual attendees and local businesses and we are thankful to Dr Cohen and Dr Flint for leading the event. We have received extremely positive feedback from our HR Network and will continue to deliver a series of events that benefits employees in the local area.

For more detailed information on topics discussed in the event, view the presentation from the day here. To find out about services provided by C&I Wellbeing visit their website http://www.candiwellbeing.co.uk/.