May 13th-19th was Mental Health Awareness Week, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, a UK charity providing support and advice to people suffering mental health problems. The Department of Health advises that one in four of us will experience mental ill health at some point in our lives so it’s important for employers to take steps to promote positive mental health and support staff who may be experiencing difficulties.
A study carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development last year found that poor mental health was the single biggest cause of long-term sickness in the UK and that stress-related absence had increased in 40% of businesses. The study found that in many cases, work issues were in a contributory factor in mental health problems and that support from managers was poor or absent, leading to extended periods of absence and increased staff turnover.
Working in care is widely regarded as one of the most stressful occupations so it’s especially important for managers in the care sector to know how to support their staff. Read on to find out how you can use this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week as a prompt to promoting positive mental health in your workplace.
Knowing how to identify and prevent mental health problems can make it easier for you to improve staff wellbeing, reduce sickness absence and promote positive mental wellbeing within your team. Our tips below will help you to put in place simple but effective measures to promote a positive approach to mental health in your care home.
Follow These 5 Steps to Promoting a Positive Approach to Mental Health at Work
- Include Discussion of Mental Health in Your Recruitment Processes: Effective pre-employment health screening can help you to identify staff who may have experienced mental health problems or be at increased risk in future. The purpose of this is not to exclude them from employment (the Equality Act 2010 protects people with mental health problems from adverse treatment due to their condition) but to ensure that appropriate support and supervision can be provided to help maintain good mental health and encourage discussion of any problems the employee may be experiencing.
- Take Preventative Steps: Simple steps such as effective induction, regular supervision and promoting a positive and supportive culture which welcomes new staff can play a huge part in supporting wellbeing. Establishing good communication between new staff and supervisors in the early days of employment will always make it easier for any problems to be disclosed and addressed promptly.
- Provide Prompt Support: Ensuring that managers and supervisors can identify the most common signs of poor mental health will enable them to act quickly to provide support. Symptoms such as a change in mood, poor motivation, tearfulness, lethargy or a lack of concentration can all suggest something isn’t right. Any concerns should be addressed quickly but sensitively, perhaps through supervision, so that the staff member feels more able disclose their problems and seek support.
- Promote a Culture of Openness: The stigma attached to mental health means that many people still struggle to talk about problems they may be experiencing. Making mental health a priority in your workplace by discussing it at staff meetings and supervisions, displaying materials from organisations such as Mind or participating in events such as World Mental Health Day can all help to normalise discussion about mental health problems and encourage a more open culture.
- Provide Support on Return to Work: Returning to work after any period of absence is daunting but coming back after an episode of poor mental health can be particularly stressful. Advance planning and discussion with the person concerned is essential to ensure that appropriate help is in place and that they feel welcomed and supported on their return. In some cases, a staged return with adjusted responsibilities may be required but always seek the agreement of the person concerned to any changes to their role, so that they feel in control of their return.