Mental health in the workplace
Being mentally healthy doesn’t just mean that you don’t have a mental health problem, according to the Mental Health Foundation. It says that those who are in good mental heath are able to make the most of their potential, cope with life and play a full part in their family, workplace, community and among friends. Mental health, sometimes referred to as ‘emotional health’ or ‘wellbeing’ can be just as important as good physical health. Mental health is about how we think, feel and behave. Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems. They are often a reaction to a difficult life event, such as bereavement, but can also be caused by work-related issues.
Most people will go through times when they feel low, stressed or frightened and for most people, those feelings will pass. However, on some occasions they can develop into a more serious problem and it can happen to any one of us.
A person’s mental health will change as s circumstances change and as a person moves through different stages of their life. The Mental Health Foundation says: “There’s a stigma attached to mental health problems. This means that people feel uncomfortable about them and don’t talk about them much. Many people don’t even feel comfortable talking about their feelings. But it’s healthy to know and say how you’re feeling.”
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 264 million people suffer from depression globally. It says that ‘Work is good for mental health but a negative working environment can lead to physical and mental health problems’, and that ‘harassment and bullying at work are commonly reported problems, and can have a substantial adverse impact on mental health.’
The World Health Organization website contains information on Work-related risk factors for health, Creating a healthy workplace and Supporting people with mental disorders at work The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) says that: “Work can also aggravate pre-existing conditions, and problems at work can bring on symptoms or make their effects worse.
“Whether work is causing the health issue or aggravating it, employers have a legal responsibility to help their employees. Work-related mental health issues must to be assessed to measure the levels of risk to staff. Where a risk is identified, steps must be taken to remove it or reduce it as far as reasonably practicable.
“Some employees will have a pre-existing physical or mental health condition when recruited or may develop one caused by factors that are not work-related factors.
“Employers may have further legal requirements, to make reasonable adjustments under equalities legislation.” GOV.UK contains all of the relevant information about employing people with a mental or physical disability. Further information can be found from the Equality and Human Rights Commission in England, Scotland and Wales.
There is advice for line managers to help them support their employees with mental health conditions.
The ‘Thriving at Work’ review
This report, written in 2017 by Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer (Chief Executive of Mind) was produced on behalf of the government to independently review the role employers can play to better support individuals with mental health conditions in the workplace.
It sets out a framework of ‘core standards’ that employers of all sizes are recommended to follow and put in place within their organisation.
In 2019, Safer Highways launched the first industry benchmarking exercise against the Thriving at Work standards for across the highways sector.