All organisations have a responsibility to support employees suffering mental illness, and to educate their staff appropriately
According to the Government, one in four people experiences a mental health disorder at some point in their life, at an annual cost to the UK of £105bn. Statistics also show that young people are affected disproportionately, with over half of mental health problems starting by the age of 14 and three-quarters by 18.
Prime Minister Theresa May recently said that mental health had been “dangerously disregarded” as secondary to physical health and that changing this would go “right to the heart of our humanity”. Indeed, when it comes to mental illness we cannot leave it just to charities and support services; mental health problems are everyone’s problem and we must face up to that as a society.
As an employer and director of people development, I believe all organisations have a responsibility to support employees who experience mental illness. They also have a responsibility to provide adequate training and education so that team members can recognise the signs of emergent problems and know how to support their colleagues, and where to direct them for specialist care and help.
So it is pleasing that health campaigner Lord Stevenson and Mind charity chief executive Paul Farmer have been appointed to carry out a review on improving mental health support in the workplace. I have also read that employers and organisations will be given additional training in supporting staff who need to take time off.
Words and intentions are all very well but actions are required to make a real difference. With this in mind, we shall be supporting mental health charities in 2017.
Building on previous charitable work, we will extend our support with a targeted and strategic plan of action. Our aims will be to:
- Enhance awareness about mental health issues
- Provide support for employees experiencing mental illness or living with those who suffer from such issues
- Remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues
- Link up with local and national mental health charities
- Engage in fundraising activities
We want to encourage our staff to talk about mental illness and acknowledge the likelihood that 25 per cent of them will experience such an issue at some point.
By building awareness we hope to de-stigmatise this subject and encourage sufferers to speak out and seek support. And by engaging with local charities we hope to set up access to counsellors and support groups, and offer awareness and educational sessions.
Finally, we will look to spearhead an event aimed at raising both awareness and funds for a mental health charity.
Remove the shroud
It is time to unshroud the ‘unmentionable’ that is mental health. Let’s bring it to the forefront rather than push it to the back.
Mental health issues create separations within society, which compound the perception of those who suffer as being different and feeling helpless and lonely. Without appropriate help, mental illness can destroy people’s lives – perhaps including your own or of those you know or love.