World Mental Health Day – time for an end to the silence on mental health in the workplace

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Today (Tues 10th October) is World Mental Health Day 2017, its a time for employers to demonstrate their commitment to change, how we think and act about mental health in the workplace and make sure that employees who are facing these problems feel supported.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has also taken the initiative to use the day to urge Government to reach out and work with small businesses and the self-employed to tackle the impact of mental health issues in the workplace.

Despite 60 per cent of the UK’s private sector workforce now being employed by small businesses, much of the help available on mental health in the workplace is not tailored for the sector, leaving many without support.

This includes small business owners and the self-employed – statistics from FSB’s medical and health advice service show that the number of small business owners and self-employed seeking advice on mental health conditions, such as depression, work-related stress and anxiety, has doubled in the last five years.

The Government is being called on to provide greater support for small businesses through a number of measures. These include improving  NHS mental health provision to better assist employers and employees alike and increasing provision of mental health support and advice, for both employers themselves and in relation to their support for employees, within Growth Hubs.

More also needs to be done to ensure that the self-employed do not fall through the net when developing mental health provision and support. FSB has welcomed the recently announced Government review of the Mental Health Act.  It is vital that the Review engages with small business employers and the self-employed – and FSB looks forward to proactively engaging with the review.

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “Owning and running a business can be hugely fulfilling and satisfying. However, it can also bring pressures that can negatively impact a person’s wellbeing and mental health. For small business owners and the self-employed, poor mental health can significantly affect the day-to-day running of their business while also damaging their health. This can also impact the wellbeing and mental health of their employees.

“Mental health conditions are often seen as being a silent problem with employees not feeling able to open up and talk about what they are experiencing. There is a collective responsibility, shared between business owners, employees, government and society as a whole to tackle the stigma associated with mental health and to speak more openly about it.

“Government needs to play its part by talking to the small business community and supporting them create an environment where mental health can be talked about. This will allow the precursors to mental health conditions to be identified at an early stage and remedied.

“There is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution to tackling mental health in the workplace. By working together we can ensure that a raft of solutions are developed which offer support to everyone who is struggling with mental health problems in the workplace.”

Last month, FSB released a short guide, ‘Wellbeing in Small Business’, providing ideas to small business owners and the self-employed on how they could better manage the wellbeing of themselves and their employees. The guide, which included input from Public Health England and Mind, included several ideas on how they can take a lead in de-stigmatising mental health in the workplace.

This year, World Mental Health Day is focusing on mental health in the workplace.