World Suicide Prevention Day: Managing Mental Health in the Workplace

During the pandemic, discussions surrounding mental health have become more common. According to research carried out by the Mental Health Foundation, the amount of people saying they can cope with the stress of COVID is declining, and has been falling since the first lockdown began. Now more than ever, light needs to be shed on these invisible illnesses – but what can you do as an employer to help those who may be suffering in silence with their mental health? Here we highlight our tips on creating a safe environment in the workplace...

  • Create hope through action; The theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day is creating hope through action. This phrase serves as a strong foundation for employers regarding mental health; when your employees can see your business making efforts to create safe spaces and reach out to those in need, they will feel hopeful and inspired to come forwards. You’re not expected to be an expert, but every little helps. Your actions will inspire your workforce, so make sure your work is visible! Display information regarding organisations such as Mind and Samaritans, and make sure resources are available to them as and when they are requested.
  • Make a commitment; Not sure where to start? The Mental Health at Work Commitment is a framework based off of the Thriving at Work standards. It provides a roadmap for employers to follow to achieve better mental health support, with an explanation of each of its six standards and why they are important. Over 1300 businesses are already pledged, including the Department for International Development and Royal Mail. The CIPD also offers a hub of resources to assist in implementing the commitment.
  • Look out for the signs; Signs of mental illness are not always visible, and you shouldn’t make assumptions, but there are certain behaviours you can look out for in your employees. If you’ve noticed that they’re not themselves, keep an eye out for the following:
    • Changes in the quality of their work or motivation
    • An appearance of tiredness, visible stress, or nervousness
    • Apathy or loss of interest
    • Increases in lateness or absences

If you have employees working from home or you yourself are doing just that, then check in on them whenever you can. Whether that's picking up the phone or sending a message, you may catch them when they need your support most!

  • Understand the law; A study carried out by Teladoc Health revealed that 82% of employees hide their struggles from their employer, with 38% doing so because they believed it would impact their career negatively. If an employee does come forward and reveals an illness to you, you must handle it correctly. Employers have a duty of care to their employees, which involves ensuring their workplace is safe and protecting them from discrimination. Mental health issues are considered to be a disability, even though symptoms may not always be visible; you must not discriminate against employees with mental illnesses, and you must consider making reasonable adjustments for them.
  • Compassion is key; It’s a hard time for everyone, but the burden is more difficult to bear for some than others. Working with employees to understand their needs and making reasonable adjustments could help you avoid losing them to long absences or even resignation. It can often be as simple as offering them more frequent breaks or helping them to prioritise their workload but try to consider any requests for flexible working or time off too. Make it clear that you stand with them, not against them.

For further help regarding mental health in the workplace, or for any other HR-related issue, contact us today at [email protected]