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The changing landscape of mental health in the workplace

‘Mental health definition’, type that into google search bar and you will be met by an astonishing 3.24 billion results, yet there is not an agreed definition of mental health. This mirrors the position mental health has taken in our society, everyone is aware of it, and most are in pursuit of strengthening their mental health. However, unlike physical health it is rare that the cure can be as simple as a visit to the doctors.

Over the past two years we’ve seen many changes surrounding mental health. It’s been catapulted from a relatively unfamiliar term in the early 2000s to arguably one of the most pressing issues the country faces.

 

So, what have those changes been? February 2021 the government announced the appointment of Dr Alex George, the first youth mental health ambassador. In March 2021 a £79 million boost for mental health in schools followed. Furthermore, there has been landmark reform in the UK’s mental health laws. These steps taken in response to the pandemic, show the government is looking to turn a corner where they may have previously underestimated the issue of mental health, or turned a blind eye to it.

 

It's no surprise that these changes, driven by public demand, started to happen during the Covid-19 pandemic as we saw lengthy spells of isolation, the pressure of homeschooling whilst working, the loss of friends and family members, front line workers overworked in difficult circumstances, job losses, job role changes, relationship breakdowns and much more, all putting pressure on employees and the organisations they work for.

 

Sadly, the majority of people reading this blog will either have had their own battles with mental health or will be aware of someone who has. In 2019, 5691¹ people in England and Wales lost their battles to mental health, in 2020, 5224¹ people. That is 10,915 preventable deaths in two years. This is why people are campaigning for change and urging the government to take action now, to put an end to the lack of education and resolve surrounding mental health issues in everyday life.

 

For these changes to be successful, they need to be embedded in all aspects of life from personal relationships to the workplace. The government has shown this through the increased levels of mental health awareness events in state schools and public sector businesses across the country, ‘tasked with identifying those who need support and improving access to specialist services’.

 

With increasing levels of knowledge and awareness of mental health issues, where does this leave the private sector? A survey undertaken by Mind Share Partners published in the Harvard Business Review concluded that ‘half of millennial (defined in this survey as 23-38 years old) and 75% of Gen-Zer (18-22 years old) respondents have left a job, both voluntarily and involuntarily, partially due to mental health reasons. (To put that in perspective, only 20% of the total survey respondents reported doing the same.)’ 

 

With the future workforce of our country having an increasingly low tolerance to poor mental health support at work, and stress and related wellbeing issues accounting for 50%² of work-related ill health, private sector companies need to act now or risk falling behind in the wake of much needed change. Many large multinationals have identified this and made changes. Companies such as EY are being hailed for paving the way for the private sector to become mentally healthier with initiatives such as ‘r u okay?’.

 

Change has been needed for a long time, and maybe one of the benefits to come out of the struggles of the pandemic is that this need for change has now become a demand for change.

 

If you’re uncertain on how you can implement changes within your organisation, without it impacting on your own workload, we’re here to help, just give us a call on 0330 223 2965 or drop us an email at cr@collinsmchugh.co.uk

 

1. Suicides in England and Wales - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

2. Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, 2021 (hse.gov.uk)