The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) is an international membership organisation founded in 1948 to advance the prevention of mental and emotional disorders. They educate on the proper treatment of those with such disorders, and the promotion of mental health, thus designating today, October 10, as World Mental Health Day (WMHDAY). Each year there is a different campaign theme, and this year the focus is on issues facing 14-28-year-olds.
In recent years, the topic of mental health moved from the shadows into the spotlight. Celebrities like Emma Thompson, David Beckham and J.K. Rowling, to name but a few, are beginning to discuss their personal experiences; members of the royal family have also shared their stories and struggles. In 2017, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry spearheaded the Heads Together campaign which aims to support those who need it while also raising awareness and tackling the stigma surrounding mental health.
It’s attention that is long overdue. But for employers, it can mean extra layers of complexities. Apart from the personal toll mental health issues take, the bottom line is that the cost to employers and the UK economy is vast. It’s estimated that poor mental health is costing UK employers between £33 billion and £42 billion per year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of between £74 and £99 billion.
With so much at stake, what measures are organisations taking to address the issue both for current employers and the workforce of the future? Colleges are reporting an increasing number of college students revealing a mental health condition to their institution. When asked, many of these young people cite uncertainty about the future, increased study costs and a highly competitive job market among the triggers for anxiety.
This is a challenge that is not ending any time soon.
Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) provides free and impartial information and advice to employers and employees on all aspects of workplace relations. They developed a framework for positive mental health at work that is free to download. I recommend taking a look at their website as it covers everything from case studies to tips on promoting mental health.
Some employers are already taking steps to respond to this crisis. Business consulting organisation EY launched a mental health programme called “r u ok?” with a goal of ending the stigma around the subject of mental health by connecting employees to resources within the organisation. Resources included employee champions, presentations on mental health, virtual events, online learning modules among other things.
The UK government assists employees with resources and other useful information. Employers in England and Wales should check Fit for Work. Employers in Scotland can get access to resources, including Work Positive, a free online survey tool employers can use to fulfil the requirements of stress management in their organisation at Healthy Working Lives.
There’s also a myriad of organisations individuals can contact for help. Here’s just a few to keep in mind or make available to your teams.
Today, take the time to look at the resources available to participate in World Mental Health Day and let’s keep the conversation open and ongoing.
Trish Burridge is the Director of Customer Success for Skillsoft, EMEA.