How are you feeling?

Ruth Warden

As our working lives get longer, more and more people will be working in the NHS with chronic health problems. Some will have physical health problems, but many will have mental health problems. We know that keeping people in employment is good for health and we want to promote and support that.

We know from contact with the NHS that a lot of people find mental health a difficult subject to raise with their staff or even with colleagues. One simple thing that we could all do to promote good mental health in the workplace is to simply ask the question ‘How are you feeling?’ and give the individual the space to reply.

We don't always do this and when we do it’s often used as a platitude, we don't expect to be told how people really are feeling! But if we could ask this question, really mean it and show that we are listening to the reply, it will help to open-up conversations in the work place and hopefully lead to people feeling more comfortable about discussing psychological and mental health in a very positive and hopefully non-threatening way.

At NHS Employers we’ve spent a lot of time looking at the issue of mental health in the workplace with a particular emphasis on supporting managers to deal with these issues. Our web pages provide advice, guidance and links to further help and information. There is also a list of questions which managers might want to ask their staff to try and open a conversation about mental health. At the moment we’re working with Zeal Solutions to deliver a bespoke train-the-trainer programme to develop manager competence in dealing with mental health at work. The training programmes were fully booked within a week, demonstrating just how seriously trusts are taking this issue.

As we mark World Mental Health Day today, we launch two new podcasts that we produced with colleagues at MIND, the mental health charity. One for staff about the importance of talking to your manager, staying mentally healthy at work and what reasonable adjustments can be put in place to aid transition back to the workplace following a period of sickness related to mental health. The other is for managers, encouraging them to approach mental health conversations as a human rather than a clinician with tips on how wellness action plans can help, how to implement 'team temperature checks' and the importance of leading from the top.

If you have any examples of how you are addressing and promoting good mental health in the workplace, we would like to hear from you  

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