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How to encourage open conversations about mental health

MHIB (Mental Health in Business) is a partner of Compass, aiming to help Members create mentally healthy workplaces.

MHIB provides advice, guidance and support in line with the latest UK Government guidelines so that you are equipped to do everything you can to implement good mental health and wellbeing practices in your business. Below, Claire Russell and the team offer advice and guidance on encouraging open conversations about mental health within your business.

Do you think that talking about mental health in your business is a bad idea?

A common misconception in business and beyond is that if we focus on mental health in the workplace it will create more problems.

What if people take advantage of the latest ‘mental health drive’ and go off sick with stress?

The reality is that for every one person that takes advantage of the system there are many more who are suffering in silence, turning up for work when they are not well enough (also known as presenteeism) and risking developing a more serious mental health condition in the future which will result in increased absence in the long run.

As a leader in your business ask yourself the following question:

Can I afford to not look after the mental health and wellbeing of my staff?

“The costs of mental health related presenteeism in the UK workplace is 16.8bn-26.4 bn… presenteeism costs can have a subsequently greater impact on employers than those related to absenteeism.” (Mental health and employers: the case for investment, Deloitte, Oct 2017)

Creating an environment where people can talk openly about mental health is absolutely essential when it comes to ensuring good mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. The key is to create a ‘shift in culture’ when it comes to mental health and to do that you need to reduce the stigma and end the taboo by encouraging open conversations about mental health in your business. Of course, this is a gradual process and the culture shift that is needed certainly won’t happen overnight.

Here are some great ways you can start to open the conversation:

  • Create an internal communications campaign which talks about normalising the conversation around mental health and how your business cares about employee wellbeing
  • At regular intervals communicate clearly to your employees what support is available in terms of mental health. Do you have an employee assistance program in place? Does your business have mental health champions or mental health first aiders? (If not, you should consider MHFA training.)
  • Engage with external campaigns such as The Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’
  • Encourage staff networks for people who share common interests e.g. bike clubs, running clubs, or curry clubs. This can create a more relaxed environment outside of work where people are more likely to open up about mental health with trusted colleagues
  • During return to work interviews check in on a person’s mental wellbeing. Make appropriate workplace adjustments for those who require them
  • Use a WAP (Wellness Action Plan) to help support someone who has been off work with a mental health problem. If you would like some tips on how to produce your own WAP then we would love to hear from you.

For advice and support specific to your business, contact Mental Health in Business:

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel: 01788 340180



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