January is the time of year when many employees take stock and make important life and career decisions, which can impact mental wellbeing. According to GRiD the industry body for the group risk sector, Blue Monday is an opportunity for employers to demonstrate that they aware of this and to be proactive in supporting the mental wellbeing of their staff.

Career-based decisions that can come to the fore during a period of reflection over the Christmas break include seeking a change in role, working patterns or pay rise. In addition, deciding to change the status of a relationship, move house or start a family are additional out-of-work challenges that employees could be wrangling with. On top of this, debt, winter blues, seasonal affective disorder, broken resolutions, and a physical hangover from Christmas excesses can also exacerbate mental health issues.

Providing meaningful mental wellbeing support is crucial as all of these decisions and issues over and above day-to-day work and life can put the mental health of employees under serious strain.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, said: “Many employers begin the new year very much focussed on their renewed ambitions for the business itself. However, it’s important to understand that employees may have also used the festive period to reassess their own lives and may return to work with additional plans and burdens.

“Blue Monday is a good reminder that employers need to be aware of the mental wellbeing of staff, but it’s important to remember that mental health support should be continual and not just for Blue Monday.

What does good mental health support look like?

Because mental health issues vary as much as physical conditions, and the acuteness of an illness will differ from employee to employee, it’s important to offer various types of support to meet the needs of those with mild anxiety through to more severe depression and psychosis. Support should comprise access to therapy, treatment and counselling with fast-track access to professional mental health support for those who require it.

How can employers access good mental health support?

Much mental health support is included within employee benefits, and particularly within group risk benefits (employer-sponsored life assurance, income protection and critical illness), where employers may well find they have access to an Employee Assistance Programme, fast-track access to talking therapies, apps for managing mental health and more to help their employees.

Why accessing mental health support via employee benefits is a no brainer

Accessing mental health support that is fully funded by existing employee benefits (such as group risk) saves costs for the employer in two ways: the employer does not need to use HR resources to source specific products or services based on the needs of multiple individual employees, nor do they need to fund these at an extra expense.

But more importantly, when support is already in place and the processes via which to access it are proven, it means employees and employers can access that support quickly, not only saving time but also potentially preventing an individual’s condition from deteriorating.

Katharine Moxham concluded: “Mental health is often discussed in a very socially acceptable manner but make no mistake, in the more severe cases, support is aimed at reducing the incidence of some very serious conditions. Not every employee will feel the pressure of Blue Monday or want to make significant changes to their lives in January, but employers need to be ready and waiting with meaningful support, for those who do.”