In support of World Mental Health Day we speak to James Wilson, Mental Health First Aider and New Business Sales Manager at iHASCO.
James shares his thoughts on why employers need to take mental health and wellbeing seriously in the workplace and what simple steps can be introduced by leaders to increase awareness of mental health and wellbeing throughout an organisation.
Why do you think it’s important for workplaces to properly address and talk about mental-ill health?
World Mental Health Day is a good reminder to employers to check in with their staff about their mental wellbeing, but in reality, this is something that should be happening continuously. You will undoubtedly get the best out of your staff if they feel valued, supported and know that their mental health is a priority for the business. The pandemic has been a catalyst for the deterioration of many people’s mental health as well as exacerbating pre-existing conditions. With the HSE reporting that stress, depression or anxiety now account for 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health, employers need to take notice. Mental ill-health will continue to be costly for employers in terms of absenteeism and loss of productivity unless it is addressed.
How can an employer show their commitment to employee mental health and wellbeing?
With an ever changing climate it is best for employers to take a proactive approach. Reach out to staff regularly, and use a variety of strategies. This could be through online mental health awareness training and providing staff with resources such as blogs and guides with practical tips on protecting your mental health and wellbeing. Keeping the conversation going will help mental health and wellbeing become embedded into your organisation’s culture.
There are also a number of resources directed at employers, which can be invaluable in providing ideas to support you with managing mental health in the workplace. Listen to a podcast or download a white paper, and take the information you've learnt and apply it to your organisation.
Employers should also consider providing opportunities for staff to be able to talk through any mental health concerns. This could be through individual catch-ups with a line manager, an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or Mental Health First Aiders. Having these mechanisms in place can be really powerful in showing your employees that mental health and wellbeing is taken seriously.
What inspired you to become a Mental Health First Aider for iHASCO?
When COVID resulted in the whole team working from home it soon became apparent that the situation was challenging for a number of staff. Sales is a naturally demanding role anyway but add in homeschooling, isolation and rapid change overnight, I could see that kindness, compassion and support were going to be vital to help the team through this unprecedented time. With two other Mental Health First Aiders in the business already I reached out to see what support I could offer, and was able to complete an online MHFA course. The course itself was a real eye-opener as it highlighted the seriousness of mental ill-health, which spurred me on even more to help support my colleagues.
I would thoroughly recommend MHFA England for anyone interested in becoming a Mental Health First Aider.
How can you encourage staff to talk about mental ill-health?
Specifically as a Mental Health First Aider, you just need to be approachable and available so staff can feel comfortable having a sensitive discussion with you. It’s also important to let staff know that the conversation is completely confidential (unless they are at risk of harm). Diversity of Mental Health First Aiders is also incredibly important to mirror the diversity of a workplace.
From the perspective of an employer, the more you can normalise mental health and wellbeing, the more likely someone is to open up. Sometimes just listening is all that is needed, but support can range from signposting someone to further help or making temporary alterations to someone's role.
As a mental health first aider do you have any top tips for employers when it comes to supporting employee mental health?
Leaders and managers need to show their employees that they are committed to supporting mental health by having open and honest conversations and actually provide tangible support. It is all very well claiming mental health is important but what do you actually do to prove you stand by that? It’s also important to recognise that implementing these changes doesn’t happen overnight, if mental health is something that has not previously been discussed it will take time to embed this into the culture, but keep the momentum going and you will make progress.
We’ve been on our own journey as a business in the past couple of years and now fully understand and appreciate just how important mental health and wellbeing is to achieving our goals. It is a continuous journey and one which I am pleased to be part of.