Poppy Jaman, CEO, MHFA

“Whether your business is big or small, we want employers to maintain momentum around mental health by continuing to disseminate skills and awareness”, Poppy Jamon, CEO, MHFA.

Discover how employers can take a whole organisation approach to mental health. Poppy Jaman, CEO of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, shares her thoughts…

Each year around ten million adults in the UK will experience mental ill health, meaning one in four of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lifetime. Over the past decade, mental health awareness has accelerated, and more and more employers now understand that mental health is not only a serious issue for society but for businesses too.

Whilst attitudes towards mental health in the workplace are shifting, it is clear employers need to do more to translate increased awareness into action. Recently, we helped launch the Mental Health at Work Report 2017, in partnership with Business in the Community and others, which reveals as many as 1.2 million people may have faced disciplinary action, demotion or dismissal, after disclosing a mental health issue at work. That’s 15% of the working population and a troubling rise of 6%, when compared with the findings in last year’s report.

The time to act is now. We will only see a culture change across our workplaces when employers value mental health as they do physical health, which is why we want to see every employer who trains staff in physical first aid to also offer Mental Health First Aid (MHFA).

We have also launched a Workplace Wellbeing Toolkit, which illustrates a strategic step-by-step process to achieving a ‘whole organisational approach’ to mental health in the workplace. There are three key steps employers can follow to create a healthier workplace.

1. Sensitise – lay the groundwork

Awareness and talking about mental health openly, is a great first step in creating a mentally healthy organisation.

Our Take 10 Together toolkit includes ready-to-use materials to support mental wellbeing in your workplace – these can be shared on your social media or through your company newsletter, as well as hosted on your intranet and displayed in spaces around your workplace. The toolkit offers tips and guidance on how you can take ten minutes to start a supportive and meaningful conversation with someone about their mental health, as well as alerting you to triggers and signs of mental ill health that you can look out for.

In addition to this, your business can make a public commitment to improving its approach to mental health by signing the ‘Time to Change Employer Pledge’.

2. Skills – embed practical skills

To better support employees, transform practices and truly embed a whole organisational approach to workplace wellbeing, employers need to offer mental health training. To prevent stress or mental health issues affecting your staff, it’s important to recognise that a positive workplace culture that supports people experiencing mental health issues starts at the top. This is why line managers have such an important part to play.

Enlightened employers – from the construction industry through to the financial sector – are training staff to support the mental and emotional wellbeing of their teams by becoming

Mental Health First Aiders. This means there are members of staff trained in how to recognise the symptoms of common mental health issues and who can effectively guide people towards the right support. To date, over 210,000 people in England have trained in MHFA skills.

Spotlight on Skanska
One employer taking effective action on mental health is construction company, Skanska, who became one of the first UK construction companies to commit to end mental health discrimination by signing the ‘Time to Change’ pledge.

Tricia O’Neill, Head of Occupational Health & Wellbeing, explains: “Since 2016, we’ve made good progress to raise awareness and understanding in this area, including working with MHFA England to train nearly 250 mental health ‘ambassadors’ to recognise common mental health issues and offer valuable support to colleagues.” She continues: “We are committed to continuing to drive progress around mental health and create a culture where everyone feels comfortable to talk about how they feel and ask for help if they need it.”

Spotlight on EY
At EY, over 700 people, including senior leaders, have been trained in MHFA. Maggie Stilwell, Managing Partner for Talent at EY, UK & Ireland, comments: “We want to better equip our people to identify when a person is struggling at work, both physically and mentally, and help them to get the support they need.At EY we also publish our psychological care pathways, run a Mental Health Buddy scheme, host workshops and webcasts on physical and mental wellbeing. Importantly we also share stories of our people, on how they manage their mental health, to help breakdown the stigma often attached.”Maggie continues: “Ultimately, we want to nurture a working environment where physical and mental health are regarded and treated equally and people are not afraid to talk about their psychological wellbeing.”

3. Sustainability – maintain momentum

Whether your business is big or small, we want employers to maintain momentum around mental health by continuing to disseminate skills and awareness.

Wellbeing Focus Week 2015This could involve training employees as in-house Mental Health First Aid Instructors, running webinars, or creating a peer support network. In smaller organisations, running ‘lunch and learn’ sessions with your trained Mental Health First Aiders can also be a great way to continue to raise awareness within your organisation.

Mental health is not just something we want employers to talk about on awareness days, but rather commit to addressing all year round. We urge all employers to act now and take a proactive step towards creating a mentally healthy organisation.

For more guidance around how to approach and respond to a colleague who is experiencing a mental health issue, download the free Line Managers Resource at: mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/resources/

Poppy Jaman is Chief Executive Officer of Mental Health First Aid England.