Do you ever see people struggling at work and wish you had the skills to help them?

We all know how important good mental health and wellbeing are to a thriving, productive workplace, but many of us just don’t know how to turn that into a reality.

At some point we may all struggle with mental illness; be it in our personal lives or in our workplace; for ourselves or for someone we know or are related to.  So how do you help a colleague who may be experiencing difficulties? Could your business benefit from mental health first aid training? We chat to Sue Rosemond from Simpila Healthy Solutions to understand some of the things you can do…

Open up and listen first…

Listening without judgement is one of the first steps. Listening to a colleague and taking the time to understand their struggles is essential. Don’t feel you need to make comment or fix things for them, just simply listen and encourage them to talk.

As Mental Health First Aid Trainers and consultants, our approach is to talk openly about the struggles we have faced personally, and we hear from many people who have personal or lived experience of facing mental health challenges. We all have different professional and personal experience, but all feel very strongly about our subject. Sharing your own experiences can be beneficial to remove the stigma and open things up for colleagues to feel they are also able to share in a safe environment. The most important aspect of this is that it’s a time for them to be heard. Speaking out can be challenging, so we would always encourage you to simply stop what you are doing, take the time to listen, to try and understand and to show empathy.

The impact on productivity – lead by example

Do you believe that employee mental health and wellbeing has an impact on the productivity and success of your business? Isn’t our mental health just as important as our physical health?

We believe it is and that the two are intrinsically linked.

Productivity in the UK is high on the agenda and along with that comes a huge amount of evidence that links mental wellbeing to productivity. There are both strong business and moral cases for ensuring that employees feel well enough to do the work they are employed to do. The problem is, that many companies don’t think of ‘investing in mental health’ as essential and yet, we all know that prevention is better than cure.

Good practice in this area comes from the top. Senior organisational leaders must be on board and prepared to be open and honest about their own mental wellbeing. They should be willing to act as role models for embedding a culture of transparent communication and mental wellness into all levels of the business. Evidence shows that creating an environment where there is a good work/life balance, providing meaningful work and allowing people autonomy around their roles can be fantastic for promoting productivity.

It is important for managers to take note when employees start to show challenges with productivity, engagement and delivery in their role. This can often be managed incorrectly with discipline and a traditional management approach.  Perhaps first, we should take the time to understand the person, as we don’t believe many people actually consciously choose to do a bad job at work.  The reasons for the changes we see in people can often be deep rooted and potentially relating to some form of mental health challenge.  We need to be better at spotting those signs and behaviours and knowing how to support people.

The need for training

Part of the need for good practice can be met by training and education, which we believe is just one of the key elements in creating a safe, healthy workplace where mental and physical health are valued equally. We are proud to say that we have trained over 700 wonderful human beings from several different sectors and all walks of life in the last 12 months and are booked to train many more in the future.

When training is implemented into a wider, holistic well-being strategy, employees can go from surviving to thriving. That’s something we are very happy to help initiate. We aren’t looking to provide any business with a team of therapists, but we would love to see organisations where people are able to spot the initial signs of mental health issues, offer encouragement and help signpost someone to the right support.

When we have the safe space and the confidence to have open and honest conversations in the workplace around well-being and mental health, early help is much more easily accessed, and early help is vital to a speedy recovery.  Let’s face it, we all want the employees we have invested in to be recovered and well enough to be performing at their best as quickly as possible.

What is Mental Health First Aid training and what does it involve?

Mental Health First Aid is recognised as a training standard by the Department of Health, for improving awareness, education and proactive support to those who are showing signs of mental health challenges.  The training brings to life the realities of the world that we live in today to create greater understand and to help remove stigma and discrimination in society.  Through attending a mental health training course individuals will gain:

  • An in depth understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect wellbeing
  • Practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues
  • Confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress
  • Enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening
  • Knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to further support.

Why you need a mental health at work plan

Core standards set out by the Government in the Thriving at Work Report: The Stevenson/Farmer Review, tell us that we should all be producing, implementing and communicating a mental health at work plan. We should be developing mental health awareness among employees and opening conversations about mental health and the support available. Employees should have good working conditions and a healthy work/life balance with opportunities for development.  Line managers and supervisors are responsible for providing effective people management and monitoring employee mental health and wellbeing.

If this is not enough to convince you, then how about some statistics?

  • 1 in 4 adults experience diagnosable mental health conditions every year

  • 1 in 5 people take a day off due to stress, and yet 90% of those people cited a different reason for their sickness absence

  • 61% of UK employees have experienced a mental health issue either due to work or where work was a contributing factor

  • The average cost of mental health to employers equates to £1,300 per employee

  • 1 in 6 workers will experience problems relating to stress at any one time

  • 85% of managers feel that employee well-being is their responsibility.

With figures like these and the knowledge that close to 800,000 people die from suicide every year, that’s one person every 40 seconds, our intention is to make a difference.

What can you do to make a difference in the lives of your people?

Sue Rosemond is a Mental Health Trainer and Consultant at Simpila Healthy Solutions. If you would like to find out about training for your business or need a workplace review, get in touch and we can set up a consultation. 

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