The media has been full recently of how treatment for mental health is the poor relation of physical disorders. So the announcement this week of the NHS’s first targets for mental health waiting times should be welcome news. From April 2015 three quarters of those requiring talking therapies will be treated within six weeks, and 95% will be treated within 18 weeks.
But while laudable, even six weeks hardly represents early intervention for anyone struggling with depression. Here are five of my tips to get a grip on mental health in your workplace.
1. Understand the extent of your mental health issues
Ask your Employee Assistance Programme provider for utilisation reports for your helpline and counselling services. You’ll also find clues in absence records, health insurance claims, Occupational Health and Group Income Protection referrals, and staff surveys.
2. Equip managers to recognise the signs
Ensure managers know the signs of common mental health conditions. The symptoms of stress and common mental health problems are similar, for example, loss of appetite, fatigue and tearfulness. The HSE website has lots of advice on this.
3. Use what you’ve already got more effectively
Make sure employees know about your Employee Assistance Programme, and ensure line managers mention it whenever they talk to those showing signs of stress or mental illness.
4. Get resilient
A preventative approach should be your ultimate aim, so take a look at Mindful Employer for help becoming an employer who is positive about mental health. For a light hearted way to engage employees with this on a day to day basis, check out the social enterprise Mindapples. It’s all about getting employees to come up with their own solutions for mental resilience by sharing their ‘5-a-day’ for the mind – the things they do to feel happier.
5. Gather evidence to get the Board on side
Three quarters of people with a mental illness are not in treatment according to England’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies. And the average person suffering from common mental health problems took 24 days off work in 2013 (ONS).
Of course if these statistics aren’t enough to make your Board sit up and take notice there’s no substitute for some hard work measuring the actual extent and cost of the problem in your company. Just remember to do your Mindapples to keep you sane along the way.