HR Expert: Mental Health Awareness Week
With 2021’s Mental Health Awareness Week (10 – 16 May) this week, a client wants to know how they should implement ways to develop sensitivity towards the topic amongst their workforce, and ensure positive mental health remains an intrinsic part of their business.

A designated mental health policy is often seen as a key part of embracing positive mental health at work. By confirming their commitment in writing, your client will be able to reduce any stigma around the matter and help place mental health on an equal footing with physical health at work. Policies should outline who staff can disclose any mental health issues to as well as the organisation’s stance on introducing mental health reasonable adjustments where necessary. This will hopefully ensure staff feel more comfortable disclosing issues regarding mental health and are confident that this will be treated seriously.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, it is common for management to take the opportunity to inform staff that they are there to help with any mental health concerns. Whilst this practice should in no way be discouraged, your client would do well to make sure this is not merely a ‘throw away gesture’ by placing more emphasis on line managers throughout the year when it comes to mental health support. It would be wise to train management on spotting the common signs of mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, as well as how to address these in the first instance. If your client is working under heavy demands, they may feel as though they lack the time to do this, it is advisable that the appropriate alterations are made to ensure they can carry out this obligation.

Perhaps most importantly, your client’s business may require a change in mentality to effectively support those suffering with mental ill health. The old business adage that ‘the customer comes first’ is often used as a mantra for financial success, however a growing number of organisations are beginning to favour an ‘employee first mentality’ in which the wellbeing of staff is considered imperative to the business. Happy staff usually make for a more productive environment, so therefore your client is encouraged to think long-term and favour continued employee wellbeing. This will also contribute to increasing the level of retention, morale and productivity amongst the workforce.

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