Occupational health key to managing mental health at work

Occupational health professionals have a key role in hammering home to employers that stress and mental ill health are not issues that can be put on the back-burner just because times are difficult economically, mental health charity Mind has emphasised.

The call came as the charity unveiled research last month suggesting that workers who admit to feeling stressed or depressed fear being sacked or forced out of their jobs.

A poll of more than 2,000 workers – carried out as part of Mind’s Time to Change campaign – found that one worker in five believes that if they mention their stress levels they could be first in line for redundancy.

This had happened to more than one-fifth of those who had disclosed a mental health problem in a previous job, it added.

Occupational health could act as an “advocate” for employer best practice on this issue, Mind chief executive Paul Farmer told Occupational Health magazine.

“What we need to get people to recognise is that they need to begin to own the business case around this, to see why it needs to be given the priority that it does,” he said.

Yet, intriguingly, staff mental health issues now have the greatest effect on company healthcare policies, a separate study by healthcare provider and insurer Mercer has argued.

Mental health has overtaken musculoskeletal issues as the primary cause of staff absence in the UK and Europe, it said. Yet, as many company healthcare plans still tend to be more slanted towards physical ailments, employers need to be aware of the risk of wasting resources by failing to target the correct causes of employee absence.

XpertHR provides advice for employers on managing mental ill health in the workplace.

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