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Poor mental health at work has been found to be widespread in the UK. A survey of 44,000 people by the mental health charity, Mind, found that half of workers have experienced a mental health problem in their current job. But research indicates that as many as one in three people who experience a mental health problem do not seek help for it.
Businesses have a vital role to play in signposting employees to emotional support services, says Mel Joseph, founder of the workplace mental health organisation, Mente.
Mel explained, “Signposting simply means informing people about where they can access more information and help from. Alongside treatments recommended by the NHS for mental health problems, like medication and cognitive behavioural therapy, there is a wealth of further support services, such as helplines, chatrooms, and educational websites. Signposting is just directing someone to the services that are available to them.”
“Unfortunately, we know that many people are struggling with their mental health, but just don’t know what to do about it, or feel uncomfortable about pursuing support,” she added.
Previous research has found that 68% of people are unaware of what support services are available to them, and 81% report that the negative stigma around mental health problems delays them or stops them seeking support.
Mel says that because UK employees spend so much of their time at work, the workplace is a central place where signposting can occur. “Britons work some of the longest hours in Europe. Because we’re at work so much, the workplace is a key place where we can spot if people are struggling, and signpost them to the right support. If businesses don’t act supportively, they can see high absence levels as a result of poor mental health and stress,” she said.
She added, “Many businesses are also choosing to use mental health champions now. If you have mental health champions, they must know where to signpost people to. A mental health champion’s role is absolutely not to be a psychotherapist. If someone approaches them for something that is outside of their role’s remit, they should signpost them to the right places.”
Concerns have been raised in the past about whether some mental health champions have a lack of clarity on the boundaries of the role, and whether the role can become draining on the champion. “If you are embedding mental health champions in your organisation, you must ensure that they know where their role ends, and know where to signpost others to,” Mel said.
She added, “Our national directory of support services sits alongside our robust mental health education, and extensive library of life events that could trigger poor mental health. These tools help people to get the right help, from the right place, at the right time. By using the Mente platform, not only are you taking away the difficulty of finding support services, but you’re also showing employees that you care about their wellbeing. This can help to break down the taboo around mental health that stops people from accessing support.”
Mente have also recently launched a new stress risk assessment tool, which helps businesses to manage stress compliantly and effectively. Writing down and storing a risk assessment for stress is a legal requirement for companies with more than 5 employees, and Mente urge businesses to check that their stress risk assessments are up to date and thorough.