Managers lack tools needed to support staff mental health

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Six in 10 line managers think they do not get enough help from their organisation to support the mental wellbeing of their staff, despite this being viewed as vital in the creation of mentally-healthy workplaces.

Eighty per cent of UK workers said they would not discuss mental ill-health with their manager because they were worried they would be judged as incapable, survey findings published during Mental Health Awareness Week have revealed.

Less than a third (31%) of managers had been sufficiently trained to recognise the signs of mental ill health in their staff.

Twenty-two per cent said they rarely discussed mental health with their direct employees or reports, while 11% said they never discussed their reports’ mental health.

The survey of 400 employees by the Institution of Safety and Health (IOSH) found 25% of workers would rather discuss their mental wellbeing with a colleague than a manager.

Duncan Spencer, head of advice and practice at IOSH, said that, while much work has been done to normalise conversations about mental health in the workplace, employees were still hesitant to do so.

“Businesses need to work hard to break down these taboos, by creating more open lines of communication,” he said. “Line managers are vital in creating workplaces that are positive for people’s mental health and wellbeing, but they need to be equipped with the right skills and knowledge to do this.”

One organisation that is encouraging open conversation about staff mental health is Lloyds Banking Group. It plans to train 2,500 employees as “Mental Health Advocates” by 2021, to give them the tools to help colleagues look after their wellbeing, as well as their own mental health.

The training programme has been developed in partnership with the charity Mental Health UK and will focus on raising awareness of mental health and how to have supportive conversations with colleagues.

“Our ambition is to shift mindset to recognise that we all have mental health, just as we all have physical health, and with the right support we can help our colleagues and customers with mental health conditions to thrive,” said Fiona Cannon, responsible business, inclusion and diversity director at Lloyds Banking Group.

“We need to do all we can to equip our colleagues with the skills and knowledge to support and protect their mental health as well as their friends and family. We want to empower them to spot the signs of mental illness early, seek help when needed and look out for others who might also be struggling.”

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