It can be hard for workers to speak out about their mental health and struggles to their colleagues or superiors at work, especially if there is a stigma against mental health in their workplace. If an organisation openly discusses and promotes mental health and wellbeing, it will then create an open and supportive culture that normalises mental health and breaks down that stigma and prejudice. Having this culture in your workplace means that employees feel able to talk about their concerns or issues and seek help, which will greatly reduce the risk of serious mental health problems developing. These changes don’t happen overnight, but there are a few simple steps that can be taken to create an open and supportive working environment that can normalise mental health.
#1 – Commit to a Mental Health Statement
One of the first steps you can take is to publicly address that mental health is a priority and a key issue. If managers and superior members of staff speak out about mental health and changing the stigma it sends a very clear message to staff that it is ok to talk about issues and concerns. Alongside this, having a written Mental Health statement outlines how your company will approach mental health issues, stigma and discrimination. It should also mention the services available to your employees if they are experiencing any difficulties. Having a written statement in your policies will show that it is not only okay to talk about mental health but that employees will be met with support and guidance.
#2 – Education
It is easy to say that attitudes towards mental health need to change, but the only way that will happen is with education and awareness. These are important to help identify and spot issues which may arise. Through early identification it can help those who are suffering to seek support. Informing and educating your workforce on mental health topics creates an environment where people will start to feel more comfortable with the conversations that would then follow.
#3 – Help Employees to Understand and Evaluate Their Own Mental Health
There are different ways in which you can get employees to assess their mental health. Getting employees to screen their mental health could provide them with a report that will address areas of mental wellbeing and give steps to build on and improve their mental health. This screening process is also a way to open up the conversations with colleagues and employers about how they scored on the screening.
#4 – Use of Positive Mental Health Language
The language and vocabulary that we use to discuss mental health and wellbeing issues can actually contribute towards the negative stigma. Using words such as “problems” or “suffering” label rather than normalise mental health. By becoming aware of the language that we use, we can change from creating the negative stigma to create a workplace where people feel they can open up about mental health issues that they may be currently experiencing or have experienced in the past.
#5 – Have a Calendar of Wellbeing Programmes
Keep your employees up to date with seminars, talks and workshops as this again will help educate employees. Engagement in these events will encourage the start of conversations, discussions and sharing of experiences. You should try to aim these sessions to focus on areas that your employees need help addressing (such as work life balance for example).
#6 – Be Proactive and Offer Support Early
When it is known that 35% of the population consider leaving their job due to stress, workplaces have a duty to try and reduce this. Through providing access to resources, and education on stress management and other mental health and wellbeing issues, managers and team leaders can ensure their workforce are staying informed. This will also build resilience, and if signposted to support early enough can prevent stress, anxiety and other issues escalating.
#7 – Have Mental Health Ambassadors
Through encouraging staff and colleagues to discuss their mental health stories, this will quickly break down stereotypes and build understanding around people who struggle with mental health and those around them (peers and colleagues). A Mental Health Ambassadors programme would enable employees to take ownership and get engaged in removing the stigma attached to mental health by giving them a chance to tell their stories, while supporting and helping them.
#8 – Use Communication Channels in the Workplace
Keep communication open between employees and other staff and make the message clear that you want to discuss mental health issues. Share up to date information, tips, factsheets, and links to resources. Post on noticeboards, in staff newsletters, emails etc.
#9 – Supportive Leadership
Providing training for leadership and management is vital to creating change. Awareness can help managers be more approachable and confident around mental health and wellbeing so that they can open up conversation with employees and team members. Supportive leaders would also be able to see early signs of when their teams may need support and allow them to take the appropriate action.
#10 – Include Mental Health In Induction Processes
Mental wellbeing should be addressed in the induction process, just as any health and safety would be. Introducing it to employees from the start shows how important it is to your workplace and employees will know that they will be supported with any issues they may come across during their time there. Equality and diversity training should also cover mental health using real world examples and scenarios to challenge and breakdown pre-existing myths and prejudice.
Want to normalise mental health? At Oxford CBT we offer a Mental Health First Aid course which can be extremely beneficial for workplaces. Find out more here.