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Mental Health Awareness Day 2020

Tracy Carpenter: Human Resources Consultant: 9th October 2020

 We've all been guilty at some point of doubting someone offering 'feeling down' or 'stressed' as a reason for failing to live up to what we expected of them. If you're an employer with tight deadlines, you might find it easier to understand a broken limb than a broken heart. But the truth is that mental illness is real, debilitating and something that almost everyone will have to contend with in one way or another.

Luckily, mental health is finally becoming acknowledged as mainstream health problem. After many years where it was rarely spoken about and little understood, high profile campaigns and frank admissions by public figures have made it a talking point. In fact, I've mentioned my own mental health problems on here in the past.

For business owners, it's worth reflecting on some facts. People with good mental health tend to be more productive, interact better with their colleagues and are more likely to contribute positively to the workplace.

By contrast, those struggling with poor mental health are more likely to get into conflict with colleagues, find it harder to juggle multiple tasks, struggle to concentrate and can be less patient with customers or clients.

The really bad news is 1 in 4 of us will be affected by these issues in our life. That makes it important for you to understand the nature of mental illness and have some tools in your kitbag to deal with it if it becomes a problem in your workplace.

One of the few productive acts of Theresa Mays premiership was the Stevenson/Farmer Review into mental health which suggested actions that businesses can take to support their employees, including the following:

  • Produce a mental health at work plan to give structure and a point of reference for employees so they know where to turn if their mental health is a problem.
  • Develop awareness among employees themselves by delivering training.
  • Encourage open conversations so that employees feel able to express their concerns
  • Provide good working conditions so that people with mental health troubles aren't placed under undue pressures that could make things worse

But, what these recommendations don't really equip you for are the realities of life. Eventually you might have to have a difficult conversation with an employee about their mental health. You might have to offer support, counselling, and deal with underperformance and absence as a result.

And that's where I am happy to step in. As an accredited Mental Health First Aider, I regularly deliver training and coaching to managers and businesses looking to improve their understanding of mental health and their means of dealing with it.

I'd be delighted to help your business deal with this tricky subject - and I'm only a phone call away.

More articles about HR issues can be found here, but follow me on LinkedIn for more regular (and less formal!) updates :-)