Mental Health Literacy at Work
A lack of understanding about mental health in the workplace can lead discrimination and stigma toward those living with mental health conditions. Mental health literacy is an empowering tool as it helps people better understand their own mental health, increases people’s resilience and control over their mental health and others. It enables people to know when to call and asks for help and where they could find help.
How do you build this?
Building mental health literacy means boosting employees’ knowledge and skills so they better manage their own mental health and improve their ability to support that of others. Ensuring staff and managers have a good understanding of mental health, and the factors that affect workplace well-being, is essential for building a healthy, happy, and productive workforce.
You can do this by:
- Raising the profile of mental health: Invite a speaker on mental health to an event as part of diversity, disability, or mental health awareness activities. Hearing what it is like to have a mental health problem from people who have experienced the issues first-hand can help break down negative stereotypes.
- Embedding mental health in your induction and training: Ensure your staff are given information on how best to manage mental health and what support is available. You should detail this in your action plan.
- Making the most of internal communications: Raise awareness through blogs, myth busters, fact sheets, tips for managers, useful web links and FAQs. You can also use posters, noticeboards, staff newsletters, magazines and intranet and internet pages to get the message out.
“According to research conducted in 2015, up to 61% of working age adults in England find it difficult to understand health and well-being information. This is often referred to as “health literacy” and it can affect people’s ability to manage long term conditions and make informed choices about their health and well-being”.– Mental Health Foundation
Building Awareness and Literacy on Mental Health
Building mental health awareness and literacy in the workplace is important to create a workplace of Well-being and safety. Not everyone is aware of the scope, benefits and value of a workforce who are aware of Mental Health. This is beyond a mere tick box exercise of compliance, this is the way you as a manger look after the assets of the workforce the company has invested in.
There are possibly a number of stages – ( which we cover in our course) to achieve this, below are what we consider to be the the 3 most fundamental stages to commence with.
Stage 1 – Recruitment
Supporting mental health starts with getting the right person for the job. If there is a mismatch between a new recruit and your workplace, or their skills and abilities and your business needs, it can lead to intense stress. Always be realistic about the role in interviews and be careful to select people on their skills and competencies, or realistic potential. Some top tips for providing an effective recruitment process include:
- Communicate the organisation’s commitment to equal opportunities during the recruitment process, including in the job advert.
- Provide guidelines and, where possible, training for staff involved in recruitment to ensure that candidates are not discriminated against at any stage.
- Make it clear in adverts and interviews that the organisation values staff mental health, as this sends a signal that disclosure will not lead to discrimination. For example, include a statement such as: ‘As an employer we are committed to promoting and protecting the physical and mental health of all our staff.’
- State clearly that reasonable adjustments are available – for the interview and the job itself – so applicants understand why disclosure might be beneficial.
- Ensure people can disclose confidentially and that any information about health or disability is kept separate from the application form, so the recruitment panel does not see it.
Stage 2 – Induction
Delivering an effective induction programme is essential. Starting a new role can feel unsettling, and if employees are not given the right expectations and guidance, it can destroy their confidence and trigger existing mental health problems. At this stage, make sure you are providing information about what support is available for staff to look after their mental health and well-being, this will send a message that Mental Health is a priority for your organisation.
Stage 3 – Responding to Disclosure
If someone tells you they have a mental health problem, or you think they do, it is important that line managers have an early conversation about the person’s needs. Managers should find a safe, quiet place to talk to them about their needs so you can provide the right level of support, including necessary adjustments.
This is where good people management skills, plus basic empathy, MHFA training and common sense, are essential. Managers need to ensure they are seen as approachable and listen when staff ask for help. They should also be mindful of whether people would feel safe sharing their problem at work.
Promoting Mental Health at Work
Managers can make a difference in employee health and well-being by asking, listening, coaching, clearing roadblocks, providing support and encouragement, and offering learning and team building opportunities. This ensures that employees feel valued and trusted.
As a manager you have the opportunity to reduce and remove stigmatism and discrimination about mental health in your team and workplace. You can make a difference simply by knowing that mental illness is not anyone’s fault, no matter what societal stigma says.
Mental Ill Health has had a long and disturbing history as to the way society has engaged with mental health conditions. This has heightened the Stigma and Discrimination still in play today in the workplace and community.
Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. Worst of all, stigma prevents people from seeking the help they need.
Being a role Model
You as a manager are a role model to your team members. As an example if you stay at your workstation and eat your lunch whilst you continue to catch up work instead of taking a break, they will see that as the norm and not take those important lunch breaks away from their workstation.
As a line manager, you can have a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of your staff. Think about the difference you would feel about having a manager who praised and encouraged your hard work to get you more productive and one who shouted and bullied you into working harder.
Consider the following aspects of being a role model to your team, in doing so retain your uniqueness and authenticity when considering these points:
Have a Positive Can Do Attitude – Show strength, resolve, calmness, and a good positive attitude in the normal day to day tasks and stressful times instills this in your team. Show your appreciation for the work they do, the things they achieve, coach, and inspire them. A positive healthy and motivated team is productive and fruitful.
Encourage them – a soft encouraging word goes much further than a harsh derogatory shout. Understand the benefits of being thankful, instead of finding fault with them – ( and we all have faults) rather praise them for their wins. Build and encourage them to grow their strengths.
Establish trust – your trustworthiness, true to your word, your honesty, humility, fairness, transparency and consistency will go miles to establish trust and build your team. Admit when you make mistakes.
“People immersed in ease can see a solution almost immediately because their minds are not gyrating in the middle of some tangential usually imagined emergencies” Shelle Rose Chaveat
Know your team – take time out to get to know about the team member as a person who has interests, hobbies, talents, aspirations a family and a community. Establish what they enjoy doing outside of the work environment. This will assist you when selecting a team member to undertake the task they are most suited for and enjoy.
Stamp out – you have the opportunity to impact your teams lives so stamp out and do not tolerate, bulling, harassment, unacceptable behaviour, stigma, or discrimination towards mental health. Verbal or emotional abuse is not acceptable in your team or workplace.
Communicate with them – Ask yourself the question what negative thoughts do I have when I hear my team member has a mental health condition or is struggling? Challenging these negative thoughts and the way you speak about them and display them will impact your team. So, let us consider challenging those thoughts and turn them into something more useful.
Get Feedback – having feedback from your team encourages a dialogue and a sharing of ideas, it is a key to building resilience, trust, and open communication. Use the feedback to tailor your team’s communication. Give feedback, get them to challenge solutions, change their perspectives and always ask if there is another or better way we can achieve a goal. Use brainstorming sessions, allow them to think for themselves and tap into their creative consciousness.
” allowing people to think for themselves unlocks their gifts, talents and abilities to be more creative, Productive, Fruitful and increase their Well-Being and self worth” Mike Scott
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