How can employers play a greater role in supporting the mental health of their employees?
Events like Mental Health Awareness week are helping more people to broach the subject of mental health. But we still live in a world where people face challenges getting the help they need.
Work is a big part of most adults’ lives – and therefore the workplace is a key setting for understanding and addressing the problem.
Many workers are still reluctant to talk about their mental wellbeing. For instance, 45% of employees who take time off work due to their mental health give another reason for their absence.1 There may, therefore, be a greater need for employers to appreciate how to manage mental ill health sensitively. This requires taking a different approach than they might with other forms of illness.
When employers create workplace cultures where people can be themselves, it is easier for people to speak about mental health concerns without fear. Even so, the decision to disclose distress at work is not one people take lightly.
If companies can also offer support through their employee benefits packages, it is likely that mental health problems will be dealt with before they become more severe. This could cut down on suffering as well as save money in treatment costs and absenteeism. As part of their cover, many ‘employee assistance programmes’ (EAPs) offer cognitive behavioural therapy or counselling to support psychological wellbeing. These programmes can provide invaluable support to those with one or several issues, whether those relate to work, legal matters, relationships, money or health. Moreover, proactive and preventative services provided through EAPs have been shown to be highly effective. Employee benefits provider Unum says that counselling provided through its programme improves mental health for 92% of its users.