Mental Health Awareness Week: Supporting your employees

Posted on May 8, 2017 by Victoria Cummins


This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, bringing awareness of both good and bad mental health and the effects it has on individuals, including your employees.

One in four of us will suffer the effects of mental health problems every year and, as we spend around a third of our week at work, this can be a key influence on our mental health.

As well as having a large impact on your employees, mental health issues can also impact on you as an employer through lost productivity, decreased motivation, and increased long-term absence.

The CIPD and Simplyhealth Absence Management Survey 2016 found that 40% of the UK's long-term absence is caused by stress and mental health problems and two-fifths of organisations have seen an increase in reported mental health problems over the past 12 months.

Mental health problems in the workplace can no longer be ignored. As a duty of care, employers must have a framework in place within their organisation to actively prevent and manage mental health problems before they become severe and potentially lead to lost productivity and/or long-term sickness.

At Simplyhealth, we've come up with a list of signs to look out for in your workplace, and some potential actions to help support your colleagues who are battling a mental health illness.

How to spot the signs of poor mental health

Encourage line managers to spot the early signs of possible mental health problems within their workforce and put plans in place for managers or your HR team to help support and/or broach the subject with any employees who may be struggling.

- Changes in their behaviour, mood or the way they interact with their colleagues.
- Decrease in their work output, motivation levels and focus.
- Struggling to make decisions, get organised and find solutions to problems.
- Appearing tired, anxious or withdrawn and losing interest in activities and tasks they previously enjoyed.
Supporting your employee/s
- Try to encourage them to communicate their problems
It may be difficult for them to open up, but it's good to talk. It doesn't necessarily have to be with you; maybe encourage them to speak to a relative or close friend about what they're experiencing.
- Reassure them that help is available
This can include help from their GP, or through your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). As an example, Simplyhealth's myWellbeing portal provides access to a confidential 24 hour, 7 days a week advice and counselling phone line.
- Ask your employee what they need from you to feel supported
It may be as simple as a weekly catch up, support with a heavy workload, or extending a few deadlines. Showing you care and are there for them will make them feel valued.
-  Encourage them to get active

Regular exercise will help lift their mood, reducing stress and anxiety. Increasing their activity levels doesn't mean they have to run a marathon; a gentle 30 minute walk during their lunch break will help them to clear their head and boost their mood.

- Offer continual support

After an initial discussion and encouraging your employee to seek help and support, ensure you book a series of follow-up reviews to aid them with their progress.

More information and resources for Mental Health Awareness Week from the Mental Health Foundation are available here

To find out more about Simplyhealth's myWellbeing platform, and other ways we can support your employees health and wellbeing, visit, email [email protected] or call 0300 100 1188.

Information provided with support from Health Assured, providers of Simplyhealth's advice and counselling service.