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Mental Health Awareness Week. Advice for Employers and Employees

May 16th, 2018

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, an annual campaign hosted by Mental Health Foundation to educate and raise awareness of mental illness, is now well underway.

Traditionally, mental health has been the elephant in the room and something people have found it difficult to talk about. However, mental health conditions can have a significant impact on both employers and employees and is not an issue which should be ignored.

What can you do as an employer?

As an employer, you should actively promote mental health and well-being in the workplace. This could encompass a number of measures, including putting mental health champions or mental health first aiders in place at all levels of the business, encouraging positive working relationships and social activities amongst staff and promoting a healthy work/life balance.

At a higher level, you should ensure that senior leaders are on board to send a clear message that mental health matters. Managers should be trained to spot the signs of a mental health condition early and equipped with the tools and resources to support their employees effectively.

Common triggers for mental health problems in the workplace should be recognised, and you should assess the effectiveness of any steps already in place to tackle these triggers. Any improvements which could be made should be identified and implemented.

What can you do as an employee?

If you are suffering from a mental health condition, you can take steps both inside and outside the workplace. Inside the workplace, you should approach someone you trust and ask for help. The fear of speaking to someone about the problems you are experiencing can often lead to them spiralling out of control. Employers can look at whether there are any adjustments which can be made to support you, as well as pointing you in the direction of other people who may be able to assist, for example, a counselling service.

Outside the workplace, eating well and keeping active can boost mental health well-being, as well as connecting with your friends and family. Learning new skills and engaging in hobbies can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence. 

What happens if your employer discriminates against because of your mental health?

Mental health conditions are capable of being considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010. If you are disabled, your employer should not discriminate against you because of your mental health condition.

If you think you are being discriminated against, you should initially try and talk to your employer to see if the problem can be solved informally or through their formal grievance procedure. If this does not alleviate the problems, you should seek legal advice. 

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