Managers feel ill-equipped to support staff mental health

Six in 10 managers are not receiving enough help from their organisation to support the mental wellbeing of their staff, a survey has found.

Only 31% of line managers polled by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and publication Management Today considered they had been sufficiently trained to recognise the signs of mental ill health in their staff, indicating that organisations are not being proactive enough in tackling an issue that contributes to lost productivity and increased absence.

Of the 400 employees and managers polled, 57% said their organisation offers no mental health and wellbeing training or support for managers. Among those that were offered such training, 79% said it was optional.

“Line managers are vital in creating workplaces that are positive for people’s mental health and wellbeing. We know work is only one factor in someone’s mental health but working for an organisation that’s serious about creating a work culture that doesn’t cause issues such as stress and anxiety can make such a difference,” said Duncan Spencer, head of advice and practice at IOSH.

“What the survey findings tell us is that there’s still much to be done in convincing businesses they need a ‘prevention first’ approach to managing mental health and wellbeing.”

The study also found that 80% of employees feared colleagues’ negative perceptions or being seen as incapable in their role if they highlighted their mental health concerns.

A further 30% worried that speaking out would lead them to being treated differently, with one respondent commenting that they had hidden their anxiety and depression diagnoses “for fear of being stigmatised”.

Spencer said: “Businesses need to be working hard to break down the taboos surrounding mental health and creating more open lines of communication.

“They need to be supporting their managers to fulfil their role by equipping them with the skills and knowledge to promote positive mental health, but without placing unrealistic expectations on them. In return they will reap the rewards of happier, healthier, more engaged and productive employees.”

The bodies argue that it is vital that line managers understand how to identify and manage the signs of mental ill health, what the causes can be, and how to advise on where their staff can access further support if they need it. They have published a white paper to support managers and organisations in doing this.

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