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Mental Health in the Workplace

Comment: Emma Hughes, HR Manager at Wolfestone Translation I’ve noticed a huge amount of media coverage recently surrounding mental health discrimination in the workplace and as a HR Manager have been quite surprised by the facts and figures that are being highlighted. According to ‘Time to Change’, an organisation with the aim of ending mental health discrimination, one in four people have experienced mental health problems and nine out of ten people with these problems will experience stigma or discrimination. They are calling on employers to take action within their workplace to firstly offer support to employees by conducting a mental health check and secondly to generate support within the organisation for tackling discrimination. What is a mental health problem? Anxiety and depression are the most common forms of mental health problems in the UK. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has revealed that these conditions cause 70 million sick days a year, and urges business to take mental health seriously. From a HR perspective it’s important for employers to do a little research on what constitutes a mental health problem, in order to be able to recognise the signs and offer the relevant support. These problems can range from the worries we all experience on a day to day basis to long term conditions. If we make the effort to understand these problems we can do a better job at dealing with them. Monitoring your team Apart from the more formal forms of monitoring such as risk assessments, there are plenty of other ways that you can offer support to your team and tackle mental health problems before they become serious problems. Maintaining good communication and taking the time to get to know staff and their personalities can help you understand when they may be acting ‘out of character’. Simply enquiring about their evening or weekend can lead to revelations of problems at home. We, as employers, can then make reasonable adjustments to ease their worries. Discrimination While many employees with mental health problems are experiencing discrimination in their workplace, many are also experiencing discrimination at interview stage. The channel 4 goes mad season is investigating the issue that many feel that disclosing their mental health problems would jeopardise their chance of getting a job. During the season, a panel of 3 will interview 8 volunteers, some of whom have suffered with mental health problems, but their problems remain a secret. Claude Littner, colleague of Lord Sugar, admitted that if he knew someone had attempted suicide he would not employ them. A debatable statement, but one that would probably represent the opinions of many employers in the UK. The reason behind it being a fear of how to cope with and support such a person. We don’t know yet how the season will conclude, but we do know that the interviewers have found those with mental health problems to be very appealing prospective staff members. Therefore the season begs the question…when is the right time to disclose a mental health illness? Sources: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/, http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk, www.peoplemanagement.co.uk, www.guardian.co.uk

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