The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year, and this year we focus on mental health in the work environment. Work is where we spend the majority of our time and generally give the majority of our energy, so it’s highly important for our work environments to be an overall positive place to spend our time. Most importantly, a modern business needs to take responsibility for fostering an atmosphere of trust and support when it comes to its employee’s wellbeing: prioritising healthy daily practices, not tolerating discrimination and ensuring that any employee living with a mental health problem feels valued and understood.
Women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men (19.8% vs 10.9%).
With one in six of the UK workforce experiencing mental health problems in 2015 , there is a growing awareness of the importance of good workplace mental health and wellbeing. This is not simply because it’s the ‘right thing to do’, but because recognising, valuing, improving and protecting mental wellbeing in the workplace makes good business sense: People living with mental health problems contributed an estimated £226 billion gross value added (12.1%) to UK GDP. This is 12.1% of GDP overall, and as high as nine times the estimated cost to economic output arising from mental health problems at work. The Mental Health Foundation has published several reports on managing mental health in the workplace and valuing mental health as a workplace asset which can help leaders put steps in place to ensure best workplace practices.
Better mental health support in the workplace can save UK businesses up to £8 billion per year.
A courageous leader is forward-thinking and aware of the problems we humans face. Managers and CEOs are in the best position to lead by example, working to reduce the stigma that still surrounds mental health and support those in need. So many only get treatment when they reach crisis point. This reduces the chance of a fully successful recovery, causes substantial costs to people’s lives and sometimes costs people’s lives themselves. As leaders of modern businesses, we can continue to raise awareness and encourage preventative practices. Mental health problems are not inevitable and the current level of stigma surrounding them is not the way it has to be. We will gain nothing by putting mental health back in a box marked ‘too much’, ‘too difficult’ or ‘undeserving’. This is where mental health languished for years, with the result that people of all ages suffered in silence. Let’s take a step forward and ensure our workplaces pursue best practices, making work a more positive environment for all.