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Today is World Mental Health Day, an internationally recognised day in which organisations and individuals come together to break the silence surrounding mental ill-health. This year's theme focuses on suicide prevention. According to The Office of National Statistics, in 2018 there was a rise in the number of deaths by suicide with 6,507 recorded in the UK alone - the highest level since 2002.
There is growing awareness of the scale of the mental health crisis. The facts are stark: one in three in the UK will be diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point while three out of five have experienced mental health issues due to work. Given that the average person now spends a third of their adult life at work, we all have a part to play in safeguarding mental as well as physical health at work.
I agree with the British Safety Council when it says that just as with physical health and safety, prevention is the best cure and the wisest investment. Changes that reduce stress, encourage early intervention and remove the mental health stigma deliver significant long-term benefits and its training courses prove that.
Evidence gathered along with mental health charity Mates in Mind, shows that taking a 'whole organisation' approach is having both quantifiable and qualitative impact, such as improved sickness absence and staff retention rates and more engaged workforces. For example, in the last two years, Tideway has reported a 12% rise in the number of staff who felt that they could approach their boss about a mental health problem - up from 64% in 2017 to 76% in 2018?. A similar increase was reported in RSE Building Services, an SME firm, where there was a reported 9% rise in staff feeling supported in relation to mental health - up from 66% in 2018 to 75% in 2019?.
The pressures we're under workwise are growing as most organisations don't have the luxury of a less than fully employed workforce. If one team member is off sick, colleagues tend to be able to cover for a while to ensure tasks are carried out successfully to deadline, but if this carries on long term, standards are likely to drop alongside morale and the rest of the team's mental health too. Contracts can be lost. There's too much at stake to ignore mental health, isn't there - not just for the individual/s concerned but for the employer, too?
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10th October 2019