HR departments feel the strain from mental health

Still a long way to go before workplaces become safe for people with mental health problems

British Safety Council calls on employers to commit themselves to protecting their workers’ mental wellbeing and investing in line managers’ mental health training

On the eve of World Mental Health Day, celebrated on 10 October, the British Safety Council warns the government and the business community that there are not enough provisions to keep people who experience mental ill-health in employment.

Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of the British Safety Council, said: “The current government investment programmes and the education and training delivered by the leading mental health charities in Britain will help many people who experience mental ill-health to return and to stay in employment.

“However, there is no room for complacency. Only 43 per cent of people with mental health issues are in regular employment, compared with 74 per cent of the general population (NHS England). Furthermore, 80 days is the average length of time which young people have to wait to start treatment in mental health services (Mind). For someone who could be contemplating suicide, 80 days is a very long time.

“A line manager has a crucial role to play in helping people to open up about their condition and advising them on where to seek further help. It’s an employer’s responsibility to train them for this task. Staff with mental health conditions who felt supported by their line managers were 11 times more likely to disclose a mental health problem, in comparison to those who did not (Mind).

“The British Safety Council has designed the Manage the Conversation training for line managers, which helps them learn how to potentially save someone’s life if they spot any danger signs.

“This year the British Safety Council has delivered almost 100 Manage the Conversation training courses to the leading construction and manufacturing companies, such as Bovis Homes, Balfour Beatty, JCB, Taylor Wimpey and Tideway.

“This training is also incorporated into the Mates in Mind programme, which is proudly supported by the British Safety Council, one of the founding partners. Mates in Mind is now working with more than 150 organisations across the construction and construction-related industries, creating better awareness and challenging the stigma associated with poor mental health. This message is now reaching more than 150,000 workers.”

To help employees talk about their mental wellbeing and build resilience to cope with pressures and adversity in the workplace, the British Safety Council has launched a range of online wellbeing resources. They include Start the Conversation course, which aims to get employees thinking about mental health and talking about it, and Resilience, developed with elite sports professionals for building physical and emotional resilience, as well as Stress Awareness training for employees and managers.

The British Safety Council has also produced a free learning video to give people a better understanding of different mental health and wellbeing issues.