Why is it important to support mental health in the workplace?

With Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May) here, it’s the perfect time to discuss why supporting mental health at work is so vital.

We’re fortunate to be living in a time when the link between mental health and general wellbeing is better understood, and those suffering with mental health issues are no longer stigmatised the way they once were.

In 2019, the taboo has been lifted and the mental health conversation has started to open up.

Able to reach out for support at any time

Similarly, the workplace now represents an environment where employer and employee should be able to talk about mental health in an open, inclusive manner, with the former particularly working hard to ensure that staff can discuss any issues they might have and are able to reach out for support at any time.

With that in mind, it’s vital that businesses strive to implement wellbeing tools and training that promote a happy working environment where a diverse spectrum of people is embraced.

It’s not just about helping staff when they ask for help – it’s also about actively monitoring behaviours and making sure that signs of stress or anxiety are being picked up upon and carefully managed as part of a preventative approach.

Foremost cause of work-related absence

With work environments and work-life balance typically cited as the biggest influences on mental health – not to mention poor mental health being the foremost cause of work-related absence – it’s clear that employers need to step up and be counted more than ever.

In coming years, we’re also likely to see a workforce that’s increasingly informed and empowered when it comes to the conversation around mental wellbeing.

Inclusive, holistic language

Fundamentally, wellbeing strategies should take the emphasis off a medical framing of mental health and focus instead on employing an inclusive, holistic language. This could make a real difference to the support that the individual feels and may help to recognise and tackle their issue quicker.

Too often employers talk about having a meaningful support network in place but fail to then fulfil that responsibility with genuine engagement and tools.

The obligation lies firmly with management to seek out those necessary resources and provide a proactive response that will meet the needs of staff when they require help most.

Practical, actionable solutions are a must – and Mental Health Awareness Week may just be the excuse you need to put that framework in place.