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Does your employee mental health support fall short?

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Does your organisation's mental health support services truly have something for every struggling employee? If not, here are six ways to make improvements and benefit your people.

30th Nov 2022
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The mental health of employees has never been more important, and with new challenges arising such as political uncertainty, the cost-of-living crisis and the impact the death of the Queen had on so many people, the need for support in the workplace continues to grow.

Most organisations have some form of mental health support service in place, such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) but are they fit for purpose, do they really have something to offer for every employee struggling with their mental health?

To be truly beneficial, services must be multi-faceted

One-dimensional or multi-faceted?

Many mental health support services can be very one-dimensional, such as offering access to a short course of counselling. Whilst this can be very beneficial for many, those with more complex, long-term issues are often left with nothing.

The term ‘mental illness’ covers a wide range of conditions and severities, ranging from mild anxiety or depression to complex disorders and addictions. Therefore to be truly beneficial, services must be multi-faceted, which means:

1. Comprehensive

Does the service offer more than one option? Does it give access to a professional, such as a mental health nurse who can assess what would be most beneficial for each individual and direct them to the most appropriate pathway?

2. Holistic approach

Does the service address the physical and mental issues together? Mental illness does not exist in a vacuum, to be fully effective all aspects need to be addressed concurrently. Physical issues such as ill health, poor nutrition, poor sleep and lifestyle habits have a detrimental effect on mental wellbeing and motivation. By addressing these factors, a more solid foundation can be created on which to build improved mental wellbeing.

3. Long term solutions

Is the service time-bound? Mental ill-health can often be fairly long term and certainly maintaining recovery is a long-term undertaking. Good quality services are flexible to meet the changing needs of individuals over time, at their own pace, with the ultimate goal of being able to manage their mental wellbeing independently. Services that are time-limited run the risk of leaving individuals high and dry when they most need help and risk them reverting back to square one.

With so many aspects of mental ill health, there is no one-size-fits-all in terms of therapies

4. Human interaction

When the chips are down, people generally find a great benefit from speaking to fellow people. There are now many digital mental wellbeing solutions, which offer great tools, but those who are really unwell are often unable to engage.

5. Specialist services

With so many aspects of mental ill health, there is no one-size-fits-all in terms of therapies. Many services simply offer a set number of counselling or CBT sessions, however, they are not always the most beneficial option. Whilst talking therapies are often most appropriate, other therapies such as complementary therapies, practical help at home or a second medical opinion can be more beneficial for some, depending on the cause. Having a professional who can listen to all the issues, identify the most beneficial help and find a suitable provider can make a huge difference in turning the corner towards recovery.

6. Exclusions from your mental health offerings

Are specific mental health conditions excluded from current offerings? Some mental health support services exclude many long-term or complex mental health conditions, and whilst some people may need more significant therapy – which may be available from other areas such as via private healthcare – many more will need to use the NHS. It’s equally important that while they wait, they have specialist support in the meantime. And if they do use the NHS, they have help in navigating it so they can get the most appropriate help for them and receive support whilst they wait for this help to be available. 

It is very positive that support for mental health is becoming more widespread, but it’s vital that it’s good quality support

Quality is key to mental health support

It is very positive that support for mental health is becoming more widespread, but it’s vital that it’s good quality support. In practice we believe it needs to be multi-faceted: comprehensive, holistic long-term, available to all, with a wide range of specialist services – all facilitated by professional human beings. 

Before mental health support is implemented, we’d urge all employers to be clear about the detail, or they may find that what they offer falls short.

Interested in this topic? Read Mental health: The importance of person-led support for serious conditions.

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