Mental health

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You have a key role to play in improving mental wellbeing in your workplace.

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All you need to know in 30 seconds 

Mental health problems affect one in four people at some point in their life. They account for around 30 per cent of sickness absence in the NHS so line managers need to be aware of the different types of problems and how to deal with them.

While mental health can seem like a difficult subject to tackle, you don’t need to be an expert in mental health to help your staff. You do need to understand how to support your staff and have open conversations with them.

Like physical health problems, mental health problems can fluctuate so what may be minor one day could be a major problem the next day. 

Your response should first be to listen and give your staff the information and support they need to plan and manage their work. You can support mental wellbeing in your workplace by:

  • encouraging open and honest communication
  • monitoring staff workloads
  • giving staff control over their work, where possible
  • keeping staff informed of upcoming organisation or team changes
  • knowing reasonable adjustment and phased return options in your organisation

All you need to know in detail

While it is sometimes seen as a challenging issue to talk about, you don’t need to be an expert in mental health to support your staff. However, you do have a key role to play in improving mental wellbeing in your workplace.

Having open conversations with staff about their mental health, providing support and creating a culture of positive mental wellbeing in your team can make a big difference to how staff are able to manage stress and other mental health problems.

Mental health can fluctuate along a spectrum in the same way that physical health can, and there may be times when it is better than others. Mental health problems should be supported in the same honest and consistent way that physical health problems are. This includes making reasonable adjustments where appropriate.

Types of mental health conditions

Mental health problems cover a range of conditions, including: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, bipolar disorder (manic depression), schizophrenia, personality disorders and psychosis. Find out more about particular conditions on the Mind website .

Encouraging positive mental wellbeing

You can create and maintain positive mental wellbeing in your team by:

  • making sure staff understand their own objectives, their team’s objectives and the organisation’s objectives, including the opportunity to ask questions and give feedback
  • giving staff control over how they deliver their work where possible
  • monitoring the workload of staff, to ensure what they are expected to deliver is realistic within the timescales, and that resources are available
  • being fair and consistent in dealings with staff and applying your organisation’s policies. You should take account of individual circumstances but overall be consistent so that all staff feel fairly treated
  • informing staff about organisation or team changes, and explaining the rationale for actions and decisions taken
  • encouraging open and honest communication, by creating a culture where people are treated with dignity and respect, and bullying and harassment is not tolerated. This includes encouraging staff to talk about mental health, and creating a safe environment for staff to disclose their own mental health problems
  • encouraging staff to ask questions and have discussions during periods of change, even if not all the information is available. This can alleviate rumors and allow staff to vent feelings in a safe environment
  • being clear and consistent about the kind of reasonable adjustments available that could support staff
  • considering early referral to occupational health and employee assistance programmes.

More information about stress and its impact on the workplace can be found on NHS Employers website.