May 11, 2015
Mental Health Week
Why bosses must, and do, care for staff with mental health problems
“I was interested to read recently an article, "Bosses lack concern for mentally ill staff" (Times Online, 31 March, 2015). However, accepting that all research applies a degree of extrapolation to build its conclusions, I disagree fundamentally with the statement. “My long experience in the field of occupational health, including mental health at work, leads me to believe modern-day employers are compassionate and supportive of employees with mental health problems and will fund services to help.
“Since 2004, 1,295 employers have signed up to the Mindful Employer Charter including large organisations such as the Nationwide Building Society, Morrisons, Eon and AXA PPP. Between them, Charter organisations employ over 1.3 million people and more employers are signing up each day. The Mayor of London’s Healthy Workplace Charter, for whom I act as a verifier, also successfully encourages employers to adopt a holistic approach to employing people.
“Through my business, supplying occupational health services in clinics in Canterbury and London, I recognise the level of support our clients provide for their employees. That support includes psychology, therapy and counselling services, and our competitors providing similar services are equally busy. The level of activity in this area is because employers do care and are investing in getting the help their employees need, indicates a huge investment by companies in their workforce.
“Client companies are increasingly asking us to provide workshops to train their managers in recognising potential stress in themselves and in their staff, and we teach them various coping strategies designed to support them. We offer drop-in sessions and 1-1 sessions on client premises – always well attended.
“The term ‘Mental Health’ is seen as a catch-all for anyone not functioning at ‘normal levels’. Mental Health though can be both positive and negative. I suggest there are very few people in the country who could put their hand up and say they had never had a ‘mental blip’.
Most of us have, and will do again. Such ‘blips’ can be brought on through personal problems, bereavement, financial worries, and can affect someone’s ‘normal’ ability to function in the workplace for a period of time. This is not ‘work related stress’ and therefore often out of an employer's control.
“One other important lesson I have taken over the years from working in this area is that time off from work is not necessarily the best way to treat depression, especially if the depression is a result of personal issues. Employers are finding that helping their staff through difficult times with the appropriate help and support help in the workplace can be the most beneficial way to help their employee and their business.”