Author - IAM Staff
There are an increasing number of campaigns to raise awareness of mental health and reduce stigma. Mental health conditions encompass a large spectrum and are often co-morbid. Everyone’s experience of mental health is different and can be very draining and difficult to self-manage. We cannot pretend we know how it truly feels unless we have been through it ourselves. In a previous work life, I was a psychological support practitioner and although I had a strong understanding, I will still never truly know how any of my patients felt.
This idea of lived experience has been touched upon in some pieces for this week’s mental health campaign (8th-13th May). The Mental Health Foundations commissioned survey found only 34% of workers who had experienced a mental health problem felt well supported by their manager (the importance of management was touched upon in a previous blog post, from increasing research in the area). Line management is considered essential in driving a business’s culture, so naturally it should be considered a key element in supporting employee well-being. 86% of respondents, agreed that their job and being at work was important to protecting and maintaining their mental health (people who had experienced a mental health problem were most likely to agree to this), which strengthens the argument of business putting extra efforts and measures to mental health. Nonetheless, only 47% of managers felt confident to support an employee if they hadn’t experienced mental health themselves.
Many campaigns previously have concentrated on reducing stigma, which of course is important. But are we slowly reaching a point where we need to stop concentrating on “reducing the stigma” and concentrate on raising awareness and improving accessibility? If this remains the “focus”, will it simply keep reinforcing an element of “different”? This is why this campaign for me, is particularly positive.
The mental health foundation, have set the theme as “surviving or thriving?”, changing the tone of mental health campaigns from “mental health costs Britain £25 billion in lost productivity” to focussing on good mental health being an asset to a business and what is added to the economy by people in the workforce who have experienced a mental health problem.
Therefore employee’s should put in measures to support and break the barriers for employees seeking help. Another study found almost half of people with physical health problems and subsequent mental health problems were in fact more worried to tell their employer about their mental health issues, rather than their physical health (Loughborough University/Mental Health foundation, 2009). Therefore, we need to praise companies promoting mental health and addressing some of the barriers stopping people approaching their employer. Alongside clear policies, there needs to be a commitment from leadership teams (including in investing in education for management) to help create a workplace culture supporting mental health. Some companies, for example, BT have previously reported that its mental well-being strategy has led to commercial benefit through increased productivity (Wilson, 2007).