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Mental Health in the Workplace

While workplaces today might spend a lot of time thinking about the physical safety and wellbeing of their employees, many still lack any kind of provisions for the mental health of their employees. Preparing for mental health situations can be difficult since they can manifest in a number of different ways, but, since around 70% of people with the most common mental disorders are working, it is something employers shouldn't ignore. As well as costing employers money for missed days and decreased productivity, compromised mental health can lead to accidents in the workplace and contribute toward an unsafe work environment overall. Further difficulty is encountered because unlike a sprained back which can be easily identified and accommodated, the stigma surrounding mental disorders can often render them invisible in the workplace-and when employers do encounter them they don't know what to do. How can this change?


Be aware that mental health issues are already a problem. According to an international study of ten countries, ADHD effects 3.5% of employees who in turn lose 22 days a year to sick days and lost productivity. Similarly, an approximate 6% of the population suffer from anxiety disorders during their lifetime and 6% experience depression in a given year; when it comes to the most costly health conditions for employers, depression is first and anxiety is fifth. If you didn't think mental health was a concern in your workplace and aren't making significant effort to combat mental health problems, it is more likely that you have attributed the problem to other sources. Once again, the difficulty is in the invisibility: 75% of people experiencing mental health problems aren't getting any help at all. While this may be the result of not knowing there is a problem, often it is a fear of repercussions and embarrassment if they seek the help they need.


Investing in mental health has financial returns. Certainly it would be a horrible thing if you only cared about your employees' mental health because of the financial return, or indeed any aspect of their health and safety, but it should be noted that there is a return. Businesses lose a good chunk of money every year when employees aren't treated for their mental health problems. Being in environments that don't accommodate their needs or having employers who hound them to return to work can counteract any treatment employees are receiving and lead to negative results. Just like any other illness or injury, mental health disorders take time to treat and sometimes mean altering the way an employee works whilst they deal with the issue. Pushing an employee to work in a way that compromises their mental health isn't productive for anyone.

For stress and anxiety related disorders especially, there is a lot an employer can do preemptively to make sure employees are maintaining good mental health; for example, creating boundaries between the work-week and time-off, and making sure employees are taking the breaks they need. Furthermore, employers can help employees identify any mental health problems to make sure they are treated early on, either by bringing in health care professionals to perform private evaluations or sending employees private evaluations to do on their own. Notice how I said "private" twice? Remember, even when trying to create an open culture that mental health care is a sensitive topic and employees have a right to privacy. Encouraging regular personal evaluations and creating policies which allow employees the time-off they need to treat any problems help break down barriers to real mental health in the workplace, making workers happier, healthier, and more productive.

One final word of advice: there is no quick fix for mental health problems in the workplace. Many hazard identifications and working practices are simple; if a chemical is dangerous, label it, if a desk is heavy, don't move it. Mental health doesn't work that way. Mental health requires long-term strategies and constant evaluation. It truly is a learning process but it is one that will help you as much as your employees. Ultimately, stress in the workplace is difficult to avoid, but, negotiating to find the best ways to handle it reaps long-term rewards. Maintaining a constant dialogue with employees to understand the challenges they are having in the workplace and creating an environment in which they can flourish is always going to be worth the investment.




Selected Courses

Please see below for a selection of health and safety courses and qualifications which you may be interested in:

NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety is the flagship NEBOSH qualification, and is the first UK vocational qualification to be developed specifically for health and safety professionals.

The NEBOSH National Diploma provides the core health and safety knowledge (transferable across industry, commerce and the public sector) which, combined with understanding and appropriate application, underpins the competent performance of an occupational health and safety practitioner.

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NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH General Certificate is one of the most popular and widely-held health and safety qualifications in the UK. It is intended to be taken by managers, supervisors and any other employees who require an understanding of general health and safety issues.

The NEBOSH General Certificate covers the main legal requirements for health and safety in the UK, along with the identification and control of workplace hazards, and the practical application of this knowledge. The general content of the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus means it is suitable and relevant for those working in virtually any industry, and is often used as a solid foundation for those going on to further study and specialising in a particular area such as construction site health and safety or fire safety.

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IOSH Managing Safely Course

The IOSH Managing Safely course is designed for managers and supervisors of organisations in virtually all industry sectors, in order to give them all they need to know to effectively manage health and safety in the workplace.

Recently updated, the new high impact programme covers key health and safety issues, and includes references to international case studies.

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CITB Site Management SMSTS Course

The Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) is one of the most popular health and safety training courses, and is intended for construction site managers, project managers and senior supervisors, as well as proprietors of smaller companies.

Client-based personnel would also benefit from attending the SMSTS course.

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CITB Health and Safety Awareness Course

This course is for those who have entered, or are about to enter, the construction and civil engineering industry as a member of the workforce to help them understand the potential hazards that they face at work on site. It aims to provide a practical summary of health and safety, welfare and environmental health and safety issues.

The course also allows delegates to identify their individual responsibilities for looking after themselves and others, what the employer's duties are and what should be done if they think anyone's health and safety is being put at risk.

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