In March, I attended the 10th Health & Wellbeing @ Work conference at the Birmingham NEC the event theme this year, changing culture and behaviour.
Ironically due to the heightened alert and spread of the Coronavirus, the numbers attending in comparison to last year were visibly lower, several speakers and exhibitors also took the decision not to participate. And numerous events, including Helping Britain Prosper 2020, were cancelled.
Nonetheless, it was a great event, and I thoroughly enjoyed walking around and chatting to some of the exhibitors, sharing knowledge, experience and best practice.
The main headline discussion that I joined was the debate on Mental Health Awareness Training – Where Next? On the panel were representatives from The Institute for Employment Studies. The UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association EAPA is the body that represents the interests of professionals concerned with employee assistance. British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), Fionuala Bonner, Chief Operating Officer, Mental Health First Aid, England.
The UK has now over 150,000 people who are trained Mental Health First Aid in the workplace, but the challenge that faces Public Health England are how to best support those who have completed their training.
I have witnessed this first-hand within some of the organisations that I have delivered mental health awareness training. Where HR professionals who are usually the first port of call and typically trained first within the organisation. They’ve become inundated and, in some cases, burdened with increased requests from employees who want support from a range of mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar, dyslexia, and so forth.
They have to juggle this support and combine within their existing workload, and many have confided that this isn’t something that they originally signed up for, as in it’s not in their job description.
So, what happens, they make this the responsibility of the line manager, whom as you’ve got it, they have their work schedule and targets to meet, and this is an extra but essential responsibility that they now have to manage.
In Jeremy Pfeffer’s book Dying for a Paycheck he suggests that your line manager is more important to you than your family doctor and I tend to agree with him.
In survey after survey, employees point the finger at their line managers as the primary source of their mental health, and this is mainly due to the significant reduction of management training over the past two decades.
So what recommendations did the panel give? More research, interventions and support to those already trained. What can business owners and leaders do immediately to support their employees, and those who are already trained as Mental Health First Aiders?
Here are five things that you can do now.
- Initiate regular feedback sessions with your Mental Health First Aid employee
- Ensure as part of your Health & Wellbeing policy that you encourage all employees to disclose any mental health illnesses and make reasonable adjustments
- Offer external support for Mental Health First Aid employees
- Invite an organisation to host a Mental Health Awareness workshop for leaders, managers and employees
- Confirm that your business meets the legal requirements under the Health & Safety Act 1974, The Mental Health Act 1983, Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995, Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010
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