3 ways to upskill managers on mental health

Mental health in the workplace
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Joy Reymond
Head of Rehabilitation Services
Unum
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Learn more ways to improve mental health in the workplace with The Ultimate Wellbeing Toolkit - a practical learning hub brought to you by financial protection specialists Unum, designed to equip HR professionals with the skills and knowledge to improve employee wellbeing.

Poor mental health is one of the biggest issues in the workplace today, causing over 70 million working days to be lost each year. As well as having a huge impact on individual employees, poor mental health has severe repercussions for employers – including increased staff turnover, sickness absence due to debilitating depression, burnout and exhaustion, decreased motivation and lost productivity.

But while companies increasingly understand the importance of good mental health, many managers would benefit more support when it comes to handling and communicating these issues in the workplace. Line managers are usually the ones responsible for dealing with mental health in the workforce day to day, but many can lack the confidence or experience to manage this alone. Here are some key ways to help your managers help your people.

Spotting the signs
There are many reasons why mental health has become such a huge issue in the workplace today, but one factor is that many cases go unrecognised until they become severe. Whilst many managers are now primed to spot signs of physical illness, mental health problems can be more difficult to identify. Make sure they know the common signs that someone may be struggling with their mental health at work, for example an uncharacteristic loss of confidence or loss of sense of humour.

Training and support
Consider investing in training to help managers put strategies in place to support staff that are affected my mental health issues. It’s also important to follow up to make sure they have taken this training on board and understand how to apply this day-to-day. Make it clear that they are not expected to become experts in mental health or to handle problems alone – instead they are there to flag problems and signpost the support and resources available.

Many third parties offer training for managers to help them recognise, understand and deal with these issues. For example, Mental Health First Aid is a course developed by Mental Health First Aid England which teaches people how to identify, understand and help a person who may be developing a mental health problem. 

Starting conversations
Many managers can find it difficult to talk about mental health issues with staff, often for fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. Talk to your managers about how to get the conversation started. For example, if an employee is going through a big change in their lives such as having children, divorce or bereavement they may need extra support. Let them know that it can be as simple as taking the employee they are concerned about out for a coffee to ask them how they are doing, and let them know that HR is on hand for support.

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16th Jul 2015 11:51

Great article, Joy. It's really important for managers to understand mental health as 1 in 3 people now are diagnosed. I agree that managers should have training into recognising mental health issues in employees as these are emotional and not physical.

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