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Is your employee mental health programme accessible to all?

This year’s World Mental Health Day campaign is Mental Health in an Unequal World.

The cost of poor mental health to UK businesses is rising. However,  for every £1 spent by employers on mental health interventions, they get £5 back in reduced absence, presenteeism and staff turnover.

Mental health training can help employees identify, understand and support someone struggling with their mental health.  In this blog, we look at why accessibility is important to training.

  • Risk factors

The circumstances in which we are born, grow, live, work and age affect our mental and physical health.  Some of the factors that can result in a period of poor mental health include:

 

  • Covid-19

The pandemic exacerbated existing inequalities and differences and the impact of Covid-19 on health and wellbeing has not been felt consistently across society.

Law Care, a charity offering emotional support, information and training to the UK legal community recently published research that found that burnout disproportionately affects people with a disability, from an ethnic minority group and women.

In the workplace, a well-thought-through mental health programme can address the varied risks and needs of different people and offers other indirect benefits to employers.

Most importantly, in light of this year’s theme, here are a couple of points to consider:

  1. Are your mental health support and awareness activities available and inclusive to all employees?

The way people respond to mental health issues is very personal and can be influenced by cultural and social factors.  When organising mental health support and training it’s important to consider the diversity mix and different types of roles at your company – mental health training should not only exist in office-based jobs.

By mapping this, employers can shape how to communicate with different groups in the workplace. Involve the groups of employees you want to participate to ensure your initiative is meaningful to them. Ensure that you can offer training in both face-to-face and remote formats, that you promote training and services using hard copy materials to ensure all employees are included.  Finally, remember to use language and imagery that is representative of all employees.

The charity MIND has put together a useful toolkit to help map out how you communicate on diversity and difference.

It says: “Remember – diversity and difference hold distinct meanings for different people, and don’t just relate to race or cultural diversity. Have you thought about the LGBTQ+ community, people who are physically disabled, and people with autism or learning disabilities?”

  1. Get conscious about unconscious bias

Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people – influenced by our own backgrounds and experiences. They are different for everyone, are inbuilt through socialisation, and essentially unavoidable.  Since they affect our attitudes, perceptions and behaviours towards people, we have to be aware of them as a force within businesses.

Studies in unconscious bias at work, for instance, show gender bias leading to men being disproportionately rewarded for competence, skills, productivity and leadership potential.  The quality of their work was consistently judged to be superior to women’s on the basis of gender alone.

Bias takes a toll on the mental health and wellbeing of groups such as women, people from black, Asian and ethnic communities and people with disabilities.

A report from Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England found almost one in five workers say they cannot be their real selves at work. Moreover, a YouGov poll revealed half of black Britons say they are as likely to experience racism at work as on the street.

Asking employees to be honest with you about how they feel they are treated can be an eye-opener for many companies. Such complex challenges need investment and time to address from the boardroom down. Meanwhile, leadership training can foster a culture of “speaking out” to challenge biases and pre-conceptions.

  1. Be proactive about risk factors

Management style is one of the top two contributors to stress at work.

Mental health awareness training can help your leaders to understand the risk factors around mental health.

Such work risk factors include a 24/7 culture, bad communication, change, unrealistic deadlines, conflicts and mistrust/blame/politics. In addition, some groups of employees are also likely to have (multiple) personal risk factors for poor mental health. These can be financial issues, social isolation, illness or using maladaptive coping strategies such as alcohol or drugs.

A robust management training programme will establish a healthy and open work culture.

Not one-size-fits-all

Mental health access for all doesn’t mean providing a programme and training that’s one-size-fits-all. Addressing your employees’ individual attitudes and awareness is key. In short, it will help tackle other modern workplace issues as well.

Our training courses  can support your employee’s mental health and wellbeing, we offer both face-to-face and remotely. For more information contact Abby Hodder.

Updated October 2021

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