by Spectrum Wellness
When an organisation openly discusses and promotes mental health and wellbeing, it creates an open and supportive culture that normalises mental health and breaks down stigma and prejudice. Having this culture means that your employees feel able to talk about and seek help for issues or concerns they might have which can greatly reduce the risk of serious mental health problems developing.
The conversation needs to happen, but what are the things you can do to proactively get it started? While culture change doesn’t happen overnight, there are a few simple proactive steps that you can take to cultivate such an open and supportive working environment.
1 Publicly commit to mental health and make a mental health statement
One of the first steps you can take to raise awareness and open discussion around mental health in the workplace is to publicly address it as a key issue and priority. When the CEO or other team leaders speak out about mental health and commit to tackling stigma and discrimination, it can have a huge impact and sends a clear message that it’s okay to talk about mental health. Back up this commitment to mental health by releasing a clear and comprehensive Mental Health Statement. This statement should set out your company’s approach to tackling mental health issues, stigma and discrimination and the specific services available for any employees experiencing problems. This makes it clear that not only is it okay to talk about mental health but that coming forward will be met with understanding, support and guidance.
2 Embed mental health in induction and training
Mental health should be addressed as part of induction, just as any other aspect of physical health and safety would be. This means that from the very beginning, employees see the importance you, as an employer, place on mental health and will know that it is far from a taboo topic in your workplace. Providing information on current mental health policies will ensure that staff feel comfortable to discuss their own mental health and are aware of the support services available to them. Equality and diversity training should also cover mental health using real world examples and scenarios to challenge and breakdown pre-existing myths and prejudice.
3 Train your managers in mental health and supportive leadership
Often the biggest influence on the way employees feel about discussing their mental health comes from their line manager, so providing training for management is key to creating an open culture. Awareness training can help managers to become approachable and confident around mental health, meaning they can encourage and initiate open dialogue with their team members and are well able to handle conversations on the topic. Training can also help managers identify the early signs of a problem and allow them to take the appropriate steps to help an employee before they develop a more serious problem. Specialist training can be provided through a number of channels, including in house training and talks or through an employee assistance programme, which can also provide telephone-based support to managers.
4 Help your employees to understand and evaluate their own mental health
Using a simple to use assessment tool, such as MindScore, you can evaluate your employees’ mental fitness as a whole, while also providing each employee who takes the screen with a personalised report that educates them around key areas of mental wellbeing and sets out recommended next steps to build on and improve their mental health. In addition to providing employees with key information, MindScore can quickly get important conversations started as your employees start chatting with their colleagues about their own mental health scores.
5 Make the most of internal communications channels
Get the message out that you’re keen to discuss and deal with mental health issues by sharing up-to-date relevant information, factsheets, tips, guides and links to key resources and support systems. Use posters, noticeboards, staff newsletters, magazines, and company intranet, blog and internet pages.
6 Speak regularly with team members to check how they’re doing
Regular one-to-one meetings and catch-ups provide a great opportunity for your managers and supervisors to check in with their team members about how they’re getting on and to discuss what might be causing them stress. Doing so regularly will help build trust and give employees a chance to raise problems at an early stage. This can also be done at a team level by adding a standing item to team meetings where people talk about wellbeing and stress as a group. These temperature checks will further promote and normalise conversations about mental health and help staff to think more about their own and their colleagues’ wellbeing and what factors can affect it.
7 Create mental health ambassadors
By encouraging employees to tell their own mental health story to their colleagues, you can quickly breakdown negative stereotypes and promote positive attitudes and understanding not just among those who suffer from mental illness but also among their peers and colleagues. Having staff at all levels talking openly about mental health sends a clear message that you will get support if you’re experiencing a mental health problem and that it will never be a barrier to career development. Our Mental Health Ambassadors programme enables employees to take ownership and get engaged in eradicating the stigma attached to mental health by giving them a platform to tell their stories, while supporting and helping them the entire way.
8 Raise the profile with an exciting launch
Launch or re-launch your workplace mental health programme by inviting a speaker in to talk to your employees as part of a mental health awareness event. Hearing from an expert or well-known figure who has experienced mental health issues first hand, can help break down negative stereotypes. Well known speakers such as senior leaders or high profile mental health ambassadors, generate huge interest and maximise the audience, the engagement and overall impact.
9 Set up a calendar of proactive wellbeing programmes
Keep your employees engaged and informed on mental health with regular talks, seminars and workshops. Education leads to understanding and again, involvement in these events provides your employees with ample opportunity to start important conversations, discussing and sharing their own thoughts and experiences of mental health issues. As there are unlimited topics within mental health, it is crucial to stay focused on the areas most relevant to your employees’ needs. You should use company mental health reports, such as MindScore, along with other demographic data and feedback, to build a comprehensive programme that delivers to the specific needs of your team.
10 Put in place modern and efficient preventative measures
In order for employees to be confident that they can discuss and come forward with any mental health issue, it is important that they know there is easily accessible, strong support available to them when they do. These services should be well communicated, and heavily publicised and should provide your staff with the right tools to proactively prepare and reactively manage their own and others mental health. A good Employee Assistance Programme is an excellent place to start, where employees can quickly and easily access face to face, phone or video counselling and can seek help with a variety of personal or work-related issues including relationship problems, legal queries or financial struggles.