09/10/2018 – Health / World Mental Health Day / Global / Mynurva
Promoting mental wellbeing in the workplace
To mark World Mental Health Day, Dr Zain Sikafi – CEO and co-founder of therapy and counselling platform Mynurva – advises on how to go about promoting mental health in the workplace.
World Mental Health Day – a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma – was observed for the first time on 10th October 1992. Over a quarter of a century since its inception, this awareness day gives organisations and employers across the world the opportunity to reflect on mental health in workplaces and what more can be done to support employee wellbeing.
Regrettably, despite generating widespread attention and raising awareness, World Mental Health Day has yet to encourage any major changes in terms of tackling mental health issues. If fact, mental health in the workplace continues to be a pressing issue across the globe, despite many positive public efforts.
The UK Prime Minister’s ‘Mental Health at Work’ report, released last year, revealed the pressing nature of the problem in Britain: it showed that a staggering 300,000 people lose their jobs each year due to mental health problems. Meanwhile, Deloitte has discovered that the cost of mental ill-health to the UK national economy can reach up to £99 billion a year.
Such figures suggest that much more needs to be done to improve wellbeing within the workplace – a responsibility that employers must approach with the utmost importance. So what measures can employees take to promote positive mental health outcomes at work?
Determine the causes of stress
There is strong evidence that work-related stress is on the rise. Just under 30 per cent of businesses surveyed by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and Aviva said they had seen an increase in the number of employees affected by mental health issues in the last three years. Moreover, in 2018 the CIPD Wellbeing at Work survey revealed that more than one-fifth of organisations cited mental illness as the primary cause of long-term absence.
To tackle these pressing issues, employers need to identify causes of stress within the workplace and take proactive measures to address them. To be clear, work-related stress is defined by the Health and Safety Executive as “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them at work”.
All organisations should have an effective stress management policy in place, which is regularly reviewed and actively implemented. Creating a stress at work policy group and involving members of both management and staff is a good way to promote close collaboration and ensure that risks of stress in the workplace are constantly assessed and reviewed.
Consulting different members of the workforce and creating forums for discussion gives employees the opportunity to share their insights and perspectives on different policies and suggest changes that could be made within the workplace.
Create an open environment
In a similar vein, making employees feel valued is essential when creating an open environment where professionals can feel comfortable to speak out about their struggles. It’s important, therefore, to try to encourage employee engagement with mental health initiatives as this can be extremely effective in building team morale.
As much of the negative stigma surrounding mental health comes from common misconceptions and a lack of understanding, educating staff about common mental health issues and holding open discussions is also important for removing the stigma. In doing so, employees can develop positive relationships with colleagues and managers – thereby building up a network of support at work.
Alternative support mechanisms
It is important that staff feel like they can speak up about their struggles and obtain the support the they need to address and overcome any mental health issues. Unfortunately, many professionals still find it daunting to speak up about their mental health issues at work.
In fact, the 2017 Mental Health at Work Report showed that around three out of every four employees with a mental health issue chose not to involve anyone at work. The main barriers cited were a ‘reluctance to make it formal’ and fears of negative consequences.
Pointing employees towards alternative support mechanisms can give them the option of getting the support that they need without having to involve colleagues or managers. This could mean encouraging employees to speak to their GP if they are suffering from the symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression.
‘HealthTech’ solutions like Mynurva can provide alternative avenues of support for professionals that are afraid of their colleagues finding out – or if they simply lack the time to physically go to a mental health professional for help.
Mynurva offers an online platform which enables people to receive counselling via a live video call. What’s more, this innovation provides the convenience of quick booking, flexible working times – and is completely confidential. Those reluctant to open up about their struggles can be safe in the knowledge that there are other options that are readily accessible to them.
With the growing prevalence of mental ill-health in the workplace, it’s crucial that employers take measures to address mental health issues and promote employee wellbeing. World Mental Health Day gives employers the chance to review their practices and implement initiatives to create a more open and supportive workplace. Encouraging employees to speak out about the struggles is the first step, and HealthTech solutions like live video counselling offer them flexible and confidential access to support.
About the author
Having worked as a GP for several years, Dr Zain Sikafi founded Mynurva to improve access to mental health support. Mynurva provides fast access to therapy or counselling, confidentially, securely and discreetly, via its live video platform. There are no waiting rooms, no travelling is required, and the service is confidential, discrete and secure.