How mental health training benefits businesses and employees

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Ensuring employees can face mental health issues and employers are equipped to offer the correct support is a vital issue. 

In January 2017, the prime minister Theresa May asked for an independent review into how employers can better support the mental health of employees.

The Thriving at Work report uncovered some eye-opening findings about UK employers' ability to spot, support and assist with mental ill health.

Ultimately, the report states:  "The UK faces a significant mental health challenge at work1."

Key findings

In the UK, there are 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem who lose their jobs each year - and at a much higher rate than those with physical health conditions1.

The cost to employers is enormous - between £33 billion and £42 billion each year.  (Figures from Mental Health First Aid came to a similar conclusion - placing the cost at £34.9 billion, or £1,300 for each employee in the UK2.)

More than half of that cost is due to presenteeism, that is, when individuals come to work but are less productive as a result of their condition1.

According to Public Health England, a programme designed to deliver better mental health and wellbeing at work has a significant return on investment - £2.37 for every £1 invested for businesses employing 500 people3.

In other words, the figures bear out that mental health training for staff and managers is not only the right choice ethically - it also makes good business sense.

A change of attitude

The message to employers is to think about mental health as a spectrum.  "The correct way to view mental health is that we all have it and we fluctuate between thriving, struggling and being ill and possibly off work," the report states.

The Thriving at Work report mentions "green shoots of good practice1". But it also calls for more.

And there seems to be an appetite for practical action.  Research from Business in the Community shows that 76% of line managers believe employee wellbeing is their responsibility, but only 22% say they have received any kind of training on mental health at work4.

When asked about what they would find most useful to support the wellbeing of employees, information and online guidance came out on top (54%) while 49% said basic training in common mental health conditions would be the priority4.

Source:  Unum

1 Stevenson/Farmer. (2017).  Thriving at Work, p3-5

2MHFA. (2018).  Training for a healthy organisation

3Public Health England (2017).  Commissioning Cost-Effective Services for Promotion of Mental Health and and Wellbeing and Prevention of Mental Ill-Health, p26

4BITC. (2016).  Mental Health at Work Report 2016, p5-6


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