How to Manage Mental Health in the Workplace

Despite the stressful nature of working in social care, many managers have difficulty knowing how to support staff experiencing mental health problems. Recent research has shown that fewer than 1 in 3 organisations train managers to support staff with poor mental health and a survey carried out by Mind revealed that only 42% of workers felt their manager would be able to spot the signs they were struggling with their mental health.

In response to these findings, the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, and Mind have produced a mental health guide for managers to help improve their ability to provide help to staff experiencing difficulties. The guide is available for free from the CIPD website and provides a range of useful tips and suggestions about improving workplace culture, spotting the signs of poor mental health and taking steps to provide assistance and support.

Knowing how to identify and prevent mental health problems can help you to improve staff wellbeing, reduce sickness absence and promote good morale within your team. Read on to learn about the steps you can take to promote a positive approach to mental health within your workplace.

Stress at Work

A CIPD study, carried out this year, found that poor mental health was the single biggest cause of long-term sickness absence in the UK and that stress-related absence had increased in 40% of businesses. The study also found that, in many cases, work issues were a contributory factor in mental health problems, and staff often found it difficult to disclose their difficulties to employers or to seek support from managers.

5 Steps to Promote a Positive Approach to Mental Health at Work 

  1. Good recruitment practice: Effective pre-employment health screening can help you identify staff who may have experienced mental health problems or be at increased risk in future. The purpose of this is not to exclude them from employment (the Equality Act 2010 protects people with mental health problems from adverse treatment due to their condition) but to ensure that appropriate support and supervision can be provided to help maintain good mental health and encourage discussion of any problems the employee may be experiencing.
  2. Preventative measures: Simple steps such as effective induction, regular supervision and promoting a positive and supportive culture which welcomes new staff can play a huge part in supporting wellbeing. Establishing good communication between new staff and supervisors in the early days of employment will always make it easier for any problems to be disclosed and addressed promptly.
  3. Early intervention: Ensuring that managers and supervisors can identify the most common signs of poor mental health will enable them to act quickly to provide support. Symptoms such as a change in mood, poor motivation, tearfulness, lethargy or a lack of concentration can all suggest something isn’t right. Any concerns should be addressed quickly but sensitively, perhaps through supervision, so that the staff member feels more able to disclose their problems and seek support.
  4. Encouraging openness: The stigma attached to mental health means that many people still struggle to talk about problems they may be experiencing. Making mental health a priority in your workplace by discussing it at staff meetings and supervisions, displaying materials from organisations such as Mind or participating in events such as World Mental Health Day can all help to normalise discussion about mental health problems and encourage a more open culture.
  5. Return to work support: Returning to work after any period of absence is daunting but coming back after an episode of poor mental health can be particularly stressful. Advance planning and discussion with the person concerned is essential to ensure that appropriate help is in place and that they feel welcomed and supported on their return. In some cases, a staged return with adjusted responsibilities may be required but always seek the agreement of the person concerned to any changes to their role, so that they feel in control of their return.

Are you responsible for managing care workers? Make sure you read Care Quality Matters – essential advice, resources, tools and checklists for Registered Managers.

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