Mental wellbeing support should be offered in the workplace say managers

On Time to Talk day, a new survey of nearly 950 managers in the UK found that less than a third of managers (30 per cent) have been trained in managing mental health in the workplace in the last year*. More worryingly half of managers (49 per cent) have never received any training on managing mental health problems and 20 per cent had received training but more than a year ago.

At the same time, over half (51per cent) of managers reported that they have had a member of staff disclose a mental health problem. Reported mental health problems include common problems such as stress, anxiety and depression as well as rarer problems such as bipolar, eating problems and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In context, this means that over three fifths (62 per cent) of managers who have had a member of their team disclose a mental health problem to them have either never received any training, or received it over 12 months ago.

The survey also found: 51per cent of senior managers have never received training on managing mental health in the workplace, compared to 44 per cent of junior managers; 52 per cent of older managers (over 50) have never received training, compared to 42 per cent of younger managers (18-29); and 52 per cent of male managers have never received training, compared to 42per cent of female managers.

Some managers surveyed have been proactive in addressing these training challenges. Jo Humphrey, a manager from St John’s Hospice, was part of a cohort of managers who identified a training need around supporting mental health in the workforce. Jo said:

Mental health is a growing problem amongst staff and as such will increasingly become part of a manager’s remit. Training has improved and enhanced my existing knowledge and confidence to support staff through difficult periods.

This year’s Time to Talk Day is all about bringing together the right ingredients, to have a conversation about mental health.

CMI’s CEO Ann Francke said it was time for all employers and managers to show leadership:

Given the vital importance of maintaining mental health at work, the fact that half of managers have never been trained in this area shows we have a very long way to go to make this a part of essential workplace practice. CMI research shows that mental health at work is an issue that cannot continue to be ignored, as over 50 per cent of managers have had a mental health problem disclosed to them by colleagues.

Line managers play an absolutely critical role in supporting employees’ mental health and wellbeing. Employers are already required by law to provide training on physical health and safety. It’s time the same requirements applied to mental health.

On the importance of today’s date, raising awareness of talking about mental health, Vitality ambassador, Jonny Wilkinson, commented,

Great mental health is the secret behind the quality of our life experience including all things physical and as such exploring it, understanding it and looking after it is paramount. The first step of that journey is realising that talking about one’s mental health is not in any way a weakness but, in fact, the hugely courageous decision to seek our true potential which will always lie in discomfort and vulnerability.

Time to Talk day shines a light upon the importance of creating an environment around ourselves that is both conducive to speaking openly, honestly and deeply as well as listening fully and being there for others unconditionally and therefore absolutely. This opportunity for people to have access to the appropriate support and more importantly the inspiration they need to uncover what they are truly capable of is imperative for the health of the individual, society and the planet itself.

Vanessa Sallows, Benefits and Governance Director at Legal & General Group Protection, commented,

Great progress has been made in raising awareness of mental health issues through initiatives such as Time to Talk day. Encouraging people to have open, honest discussions is vital in ensuring individuals receive the support they need. But, a stigma still exists, particularly in the workplace, where there is often a taboo unfairly associated with discussing mental health problems. In fact, research from our ‘Not A Red Card’ campaign last year revealed that only 47 per cent of business leaders said their colleagues would feel comfortable talking about mental health in the workplace and 77 per cent said that their own mental health has impacted their performance at work. Clearly, more needs to be done to motivate businesses to take action and reinforce the importance of employers focusing time and resource on the mental health needs of their staff. At Legal & General, we are dedicated to educating and inspiring action around this important issue through our ‘Not A Red Card’ campaign and training our employees as Mental Health First Aiders to ensure people get the help they need, when they need it most.

Mary Lawrence, health and safety practice lead at international legal practice Osborne Clarke LLP, had the following comment on addressing mental health in the workplace:

Recent statistics from The Mental Health Foundation revealed that two thirds of people in the UK will experience a mental health problem within their lifetime. It is therefore in the interest of every organisation to ensure the mental wellbeing of every employee is properly addressed, and Time to Talk Day acts as a timely reminder to do just this. Unhappy workers result in unproductive workers, and stressed employees are more likely to be absent from work.

In the same way as businesses approach the physical safety of employees, it is important to look at their mental wellbeing. Businesses could not only face legal claims from employees but also find themselves being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive if it is believed that a company isn’t ensuring the ‘health’ as well as the ‘safety’ of an employee. In the future, we may well see listed companies having to report H&S stats as part of the company’s sustainability rating – which many see as an important step in the right direction – because happy, healthy staff is good for business. Organisations need to be ready for this and managing worker mental health is a win-win.




Interested in mental health and wellbeing in the workplace? We recommend Mental Health Awareness training day and Workplace Wellbeing and Stress Forum 2019.


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Aphrodite is a creative writer and editor specialising in publishing and communications. She is passionate about undertaking projects in diverse sectors. She has written and edited copy for media as varied as social enterprise, art, fashion and education. She is at her most happy owning a project from its very conception, focusing on the client and project research in the first instance, and working closely with CEOs and Directors throughout the consultation process. Much of her work has focused on rebranding; messaging and tone of voice is one of her expertise, as is a distinctively unique writing style in my most of her creative projects. Her work is always driven by the versatility of language to galvanise image and to change perception, as it is by inspiring and being inspired by the wondrous diversity of people with whom paths she crosses cross!

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