To mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19th) May, a time when many employers are looking at ways to support employees with mental health, XpertHR is highlighting some key advice on managing mental health taken from its good practice guide.

The failure to manage employees’ mental health can cause a number of organisational problems, for example sickness absence, poor employee morale and reduced productivity.

XpertHR’s good practice guide provides an overview of the resources that employers can use to help prevent work related stress and to support employees with a mental health condition. It covers the Primary Prevention, Secondary Prevention and Tertiary-level support that employers can provide.

 Primary prevention

XpertHR highlights that the resources employers can use for primary prevention could include guidance for line managers on how to design jobs that do not cause excessive pressure and programmes to promote good individual mental health and resilience.

The guide stresses that line managers have an important role to play in removing other risk factors, including bullying and harassment, and promoting good working relationships. This level of intervention covers the creation of a workplace environment that is conducive to good mental health, for example training for line managers in developing the soft skills necessary to encourage disclosure of a mental health problem, and job design to support the creation of work that is satisfying and does not exert excessive pressure on employees.

Secondary intervention

The resources employers could use include training to identify stress, anxiety and other common mental health problems, or a stress assessment and management tool. XpertHR says it is vitally important that employers help line managers to spot when a team member may be struggling, be it with stress or any other form of distress.

The guide covers the level of support needed to help employees at a sufficiently early stage of their presenting symptoms to prevent mental health problems developing, for example stress management and resilience training.

Tertiary-level support

XpertHR recommends that employers support managers to identify and support employees with severe and enduring mental ill health. To do this, they could provide mental health first-aid training, give guidance on using the management support part of their EAP, and training on how to make effective referrals to occupational health or other medical specialists.

Employees with a more serious long-term illness will often need a different management approach to those with a mild or moderate condition – particularly where the condition fluctuates, with relapses and remission periods.

XpertHR notes that employees with enduring mental ill health will function well most of the time and are best placed to identify the early warning signs that they are not well, making it vital for them to be involved in workplace support.

Some organisations have developed a structured approach for engaging support quickly where an employee identifies problems with his or her own mental health. This approach empowers employees with mental ill health to manage their situation at work.

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