On the mind

23 March 2018

Awareness is growing about the importance of health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Once swept under the carpet, mental health issues are now being discussed openly by the wider public in the news and on social media, and by businesses and organisations. 

I even received a letter the other day which had 'Royal Mail supports mental health awareness' stamped on the envelope. After an internet search I discovered that Royal Mail has partnered with Mental Health UK to help raise awareness and increase support for mental health problems amongst colleagues, customers and communities.

A number of public figures are also throwing their weight behind these important issues – one of the most recent being the Duke of Cambridge, who is set to launch a website and online training project to improve workplace wellbeing. Due to go live in September, the website has been developed jointly by Heads Together, His Royal Highness' own mental health campaign, Unilever and Mind. 

Other training courses on mental health in the workplace and work-related stress are being developed along with new approaches to tackling these issues. These include the British Safety Council's newly launched mental health training courses. 

The renewed focus on mental health in the workplace is not surprising considering that one in four people in the UK will suffer from mental ill health at some point in their lives and, in the workplace, it remains the leading cause of sickness absence. 

In 2016/17, HSE statistics revealed that 12.5 million of the 31.2 million working days lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal injuries were because of stress, anxiety and depression (40%). 

New staff survey results issued by the NHS in March showed that 38% of staff reported feeling unwell due to work-related stress in the last 12 months, a slight increase compared to last year’s survey. More than half went to work in the last three months despite feeling unwell because of pressure. 

As Louise Ward, policy standards and communications director at the British Safety Council, says: "Mental health and wellbeing is very much the issue of our time." 

She adds: "We need to reduce the stigma associated with health and mental health issues, help people to understand that it's completely normal to not be OK all of the time, and build a network of systems to provide support as and when people need it."

Seminars at The Health & Safety Event (10-12 April, NEC) include the impact of lone working on stress and wellbeing in the new Lone Worker Theatre. Led by Terry Streather, director of training at Oakwood Training, this session will look at proactive ways to help ensure the mental health of your lone workers. 

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