Promoting Mental Health at Work
What is mental health?
Mental health is the mental and emotional state in which we feel able to cope with the normal stresses of everyday life. Mental ill-health can range from being a bit down to anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. The Centre for Mental Health estimates that the total annual cost of mental health problems at work is over £30 billion. It would be to their advantage if employers could encourage better mental health at work yet a 2011 NHS survey found that 43% of people said they would feel uncomfortable talking to their employer about their mental health (down from 50% in 2010).
In order to help employers to create an environment where mental health can flourish, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has teamed up with Mindful Employer to produce a guide entitled Promoting positive mental health at work. The guide concludes that line managers already have many of the skills needed to promote positive mental health at work and runs through a number of sample scenarios. A separate leaflet on top tips is also available.
In a separate initiative, The Centre for Social Justice thinktank has called for a wider choice of psychological therapies to be available on the NHS. Its report Commissioning effective talking therapies says remaining in work is helpful in recovering from mental illness, yet the choice of therapies on offer is greater for unemployed people on the Work Programme than in the NHS due to different guidelines. Current NICE guidelines used in the NHS’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programmes favour only a few therapies, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy, with a recovery rate of only 14%. IAPT programmes are also less cost effective than the primary care counselling services which they largely replaced, and less cost effective than equivalent voluntary sector services. The Centre for Social Justice report would like to see more use of private and charity sector therapists from a range of approaches.
Therapists at the Hope Street Centre support employees with mental health issues by building employee resilience (e.g. through The Resilience Programme) and through employer-provided counselling services (EAPs). Employees can also self-refer to individual therapists or to low-cost therapy offered by Brightstone Clinic.
ACAS 7 top tips for promoting good mental health
1. Spot the Signs
2. Focus on what you can control
3. Tackle the causes of stress
4. Keep talking
5. Help employees to cope
6. Keep informed about mental health
7. Make reasonable adjustments