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5 Top Tips for Employers on Discussing Mental Health

Published 5th October 2017 by Charlotte Smith

Tuesday 10th October marks World Mental Health Day and today our CEO Paul Devoy signed up to Time To Change’s Employer Pledge. By doing this, Paul hopes to demonstrate IIP’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that employees feel supported when facing mental health problems. Time to Change’s latest campaign ‘In Your Corner’, encourages us all to look out for our colleagues, should they be dealing with a mental health issue.

According to recent surveys, 56% of employers would like to do more to support the health and wellbeing of their staff, but feel that they lack the training and guidance to do so. This concern is understandable, particularly when it comes to broaching difficult subjects like the mental health of employees. Given the fact that 25% of people are dealing with problems relating to mental health, it can be daunting for employers to begin to develop an organisational approach to support staff in this vital area where no two experiences are the same.

However, any offer of support you can make to employees who might be dealing with mental health issues does not need to be based on a specific, immovable framework. Indeed, given the many ways that mental health problems can manifest themselves, a more personalised approach to supporting employees is actually more effective.

Below are our top five steps to creating an office culture where employees feel assured that everyone from the CEO to their teammates are really in their corner:

  1. Encourage an office culture where communication is open and honest. Having this basic foundation will mean that if and when employees do feel the need to discuss a personal matter, they feel comfortable in doing so.
  2. Develop an internal process that makes it easy for employees to anonymously  access support for any mental health problem. Some people might never feel comfortable discussing their mental health with work colleagues. This is why it’s vitally important to have a system in place which means that your employees can seek out support anonymously.
  3. Coach line managers on how best to support employees who come forward with mental health worries. It is important to speak to line managers about how they should engage with members of their team who raise mental health concerns. It isn’t about developing one single approach, but rather giving line managers the autonomy to offer strategies to mitigate stress, such as flexible working.
  4. Assist employees who have flagged a mental health condition in creating long term strategies to alleviate stress and manage their workload. Once an employee has taken the step to open up about their mental health, planning out long term strategies is key to ensuring that work-related stress is reduced as much as possible. This could involve anything from working from home to moving teams.
  5. Develop a communication strategy which makes your policy on mental health support clear, concise and comforting. It’s great to have a strategy in place to help employees address mental health problems, and it’s vitally important to communicate what this strategy is. For example, having an anonymous helpline is fantastic support, but only if your people know it’s  available to them.

The approach of this year’s World Mental Health Day is an important reminder that we all have our mental health to consider just as we have general health to consider. Having a mental health strategy in place within your organisation, no matter how informal, could offer support for employees at a time they might truly need it. It comes down to being able to say to your employees: ‘I am #inyourcorner’.