This year, Mental Health Awareness Week (14 – 20 May) is shining a spotlight on stress. Here, Jaan Madan, Workplace Lead at Mental Health First Aid England, shares three ways to promote positive mental wellbeing in your organisation.

Over the past few years great strides have been taken around mental health awareness. But in the workplace, there remains a stigma. Today, we’ve partnered with the Mental Health Foundation to launch new research that looks at stress in workplace. Worryingly, it found just under a quarter of people (23%) say they compromise their health to do their job and 28% of people have been less productive at work due to stress. There is more to do in our workplaces to transform increased awareness on mental health into action.

Champion mental health from the top

Transformative change starts at the top. So, encouraging senior leaders to champion mental health as a priority issue is a vital first step in creating transparency around the topic and reducing the stigma associated with it. Employees must feel able to talk about their mental health and leaders play a key role in creating an atmosphere that enables people to feel they can discuss it openly.

Through sharing personal experience of mental health, leaders encourage those around them, and within their organisation, to reflect on their own wellbeing and to make positive changes to their behaviour. Senior personnel can also make an impact by actively encouraging regular conversations around mental health, which can then be adopted as part of the routine of different teams and departments. Companies such as Deloitte recognise the importance of this – they are training one in four of their senior leaders in Mental Health First Aid skills.

Communicate healthy behaviours

Providing and communicating key resources, such as the Address Your Stress toolkit, which employees can easily adopt as part of their daily routine is a great way to encourage people to learn helpful strategies for dealing with stress in the workplace.

Supporting campaigns like Mental Health Awareness Week, or Time to Change, can have a big impact. By pledging your involvement in the issue, you can help to create a more open culture. This is particularly important as the research released by the Mental Health Foundation found one in ten employees feel unable to admit when stress is the reason for workplace absence

Beyond awareness days, regularly promoting mental wellbeing provides helpful prompts for employees. Once you’ve laid the groundwork for a mentally healthy organisation it’s important to keep the conversation going. To encourage a culture of openness, it’s a great idea to create a peer support network by setting up a mentoring scheme and encouraging employees to sign up as mentors and mentees.

Ensure managers are equipped to act

Managers have a crucial role to play in spotting signs that someone may be struggling and to take the first step towards offering initial support. WHSmith is one leading employer that recognises the important role managers take in creating a mentally health organisation – 90% of their office line managers are trained in Mental Health First Aid.

Ensuring managers receive training to help them recognise the symptoms of someone who may be experiencing too much stress can help prevent further issues before they arise. The need for more training is underscored by the fact that many employees are afraid to discuss stress openly – only 14% of people feel comfortable they can talk to a manager about it.

Awareness and talking about mental health openly, is a great first step in creating a mentally healthy organisation. But to better support employees, transform practices and truly embed a whole organisational approach to workplace wellbeing, employers need to offer mental health training.

Download the Address Your Stress toolkit to support Mental Health Awareness Week. Find out more about Mental Health First Aid training for your workplace at:

If you are interested in health at work or finding out more about transforming your company culture to include a wellbeing programme you may be interested in our Workplace Wellbeing and Stress forum 2018 held in London on the 15th November. Click here for more details