Why mental health awareness training is vital in modern workplaces

Why mental health awareness training is vital in modern workplaces

Mental health problems are very common and have significant negative effects on organisations and their employees. Awareness training can help organisations tackle this issue.
  • The importance of mental health awareness training 
  • Digital solutions for workplace mental health

Awareness of mental health issues, and the importance of preventing and addressing them, has been growing over recent years. In the last few years, the percentage of people suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression increased, as have our collective efforts to remedy this. Research by the London School of Economics (LSE) found that mental health issues cost the UK’s economy almost £120 billion a year – or roughly 5 per cent of the country’s GDP. In addition to this, almost one-fifth of Americans experience some form of mental illness each year. We spend roughly a third of our lives at work, and work is a common cause of stress and resulting mental health issues. This means that it is essential – both for employers and employees – that organisations protect the mental wellbeing of their workers. Unfortunately, in many cases, issues are only noticed after their effects have become apparent. It is much more effective to address and solve mental health issues before they develop and worsen than it is to deal with the eventual results. HR departments and leaders have an important role to play in creating company cultures that are conducive to good mental health. The first stage of becoming able to prevent and address issues is becoming aware of their details. Thankfully, mental health awareness training is becoming increasingly popular and valued in the world of work.

The importance of mental health awareness training

According to Deloitte, investment in workplace mental health results in an average return of £5 per £1 spent. Awareness is a vital step in this – issues cannot be addressed without first being understood. Even well-meaning, supportive managers and colleagues can get things wrong, and it is easy to misunderstand the specifics of different mental health issues and their causes. After all, the field of mental healthcare is broad and extremely complex, and there are rarely one-size-fits-all solutions to be found. However, certain actions have been found to strongly correlate with positive mental health outcomes, such as offering support to employees when needed and avoiding creating stressful or discriminatory work environments.

Mental health awareness training is most effective when it is centred around practical actions. Global consulting firm Mercer has implemented awareness training that aims to embed knowledge and solutions into company cultures in practical ways. The challenges of identifying the early signs of mental health issues in remote employees are in particular focus. Company partner Wolfgang Seidl states that “mental health has risen to the top of the agenda, and the type of training delivery has changed… The working from home revolution means we have to be much more aware of people’s attention spans and what is possible online”. The importance of diversity is also recognised – “Mercer’s training is appropriate for all people, regardless of gender, age, and ethnicity, or if they are blue or white collar”. The training consists of four modules – resilience, empathy, self-care, and engagement.

Digital solutions for workplace mental health

While digital technologies cannot solve mental health issues themselves, they can be powerful tools in helping managers and employees to improve mental health in the workplace. Offering access to online video calls with therapists is one example of this, as are the many apps that aim to protect mental health. One such app is MoodGYM, a web-based therapy programme that functions similarly to an interactive self-help book. This solution has been scientifically studied and proven to be effective at treating mild-to-moderate anxiety and depression. Incorporating digital tools like this into the workplace can help address common mental health issues.

Closing thoughts

Awareness training and digital solutions are both powerful tools in improving mental health in the workplace. In addition to these, it is vital to foster an empowering and supportive company culture that understands and respects its workers regardless of their demographic or health status.

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