Mental health problems affect one in six workers in the UK every year, costing the UK economy somewhere between £74 billion and £99 billion a year.
Research by Mind shows that work is the biggest cause of stress in people’s lives, even more than financial problems. So, it’s encouraging that an increasing number of employers are investing in mental health training to support staff wellbeing.
Happy, well-adjusted employees are not only more productive, but also take less sick leave, are more motivated and act as ambassadors for your business.
Conversely, mental health issues such as depression increase an employee’s likelihood of absence, reduce their productivity and may even affect their tenure with your company. Poor mental health is bad news for business.
Why is mental health training in the workplace important?
Despite progress, there is still stigma surrounding mental health. And that stigma is often amplified in the workplace.
People don’t want to admit they're struggling for fear of being treated differently; they may worry they’ll be passed by for promotion, marked as a potential for redundancy or labelled as “unable to cope”.
Mental health training helps raise awareness of the importance of good mental health and signposts ways to get mental health support.
Mental health training and an employer’s duty of care
As an employer you owe a duty of care to your staff to take all reasonable steps to ensure their health, wellbeing and safety. This covers both physical and mental health.
More than a legal duty, looking after your staff demonstrates your commitment towards them and helps build trust and loyalty within your organisation.
Your employer duty of care extends to ensuring you support employees with pre-existing health issues and disabilities and do what you can to prevent new ones developing. This encompasses mental as well as physical health.
Mental health training is an important way of ensuring you deliver against your duty of care.
Mental health training isn’t about turning managers into pseudo therapists. It’s about equipping them with the information they need to spot problems early on and giving them the resourcing to offer appropriate support.
Managers without training may struggle to spot problems simply because they are unaware their direct reports are struggling.
Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and stress may start with mild symptoms that can be mistaken for poor performance or unreliability. But without intervention these problems can rapidly escalate.
Support with workplace mental health training
There are a number of organisations running mental health training courses, many of which are in partnership with Government initiatives. Here are some of them:
Visit Mind’s website for comprehensive information to support mental health at work. From free resources such as webinars and step-by-step guides to online courses, Mind is an excellent port of call for any SME wishing to support their employees’ mental health.
Mental Health First Aid provides training courses across the country to equip people with the skills they need to support their own and others’ wellbeing.
ACAS has created a framework for positive mental health in the workplace. This includes in-depth guidance and examples of how other organisations have approached mental health at work. They also have a range of training courses to help employers better understand mental health in the workplace.
Support with workplace mental health training
Lead from the top down–Normalise conversations about mental health by showing support at every level. This means everyone from business owners to shop floor staff should be on board with your mental health training programme.
Create a mental health at work plan – According to statistics only 6% of employees would take a sick day because of mental health, compared to 20% for a physical illness. Help buck the trend by creating a specific mental health at work plan.
This should detail the support on offer for employees and provide a framework in which all your staff can operate. Not sure where to start? This guide details 10 practical steps you can take in your business to support your people's mental health.
Ask your staff – Design your mental health training plan with your workers' input. This will give it greater weight and give your staff a vested interest in it.
Create a mental health support hierarchy – Everyone in your business should be involved with mental health training. That said, it's important to be clear about who is responsible for mental health training, who delivers training to staff workers and how you will monitor the programme's effectiveness.
For example, whilst the owner may have overall responsibility, it's the HR department who leads the training and line managers who take the responsibility for their individual teams.