Debbie Lovewell-Tuck: Opening up conversations around mental health

As our Mental Health Week, in association with Axa PPP Healthcare, draws to a close, it is time to reflect on some of the trends and issues currently shaping employers’ strategies in this area.

Mental Health Week took place in the lead up to Blue Monday; the third Monday of January has been termed the most depressing day of the year, due to a combination of the post-Christmas comedown, gloomy weather and unpaid credit card bills. Although such awareness days have received some criticism for appearing to trivialise mental ill-health issues, they do serve an important purpose in helping to raise awareness both of mental health conditions themselves, and sources of support.

In recent years, much has been done to combat the stigma that has historically surrounded mental health, and open up conversations. While there is undoubtedly still a long way to go, the more these open conversations take place, the more likely it is that others will feel able and empowered to speak up regarding their own experiences, or to seek help and support.

Celebrities and public figures sharing details of their own mental health issues have been instrumental in raising awareness. Stephen Fry, Ruby Wax, Will Young and Clarke Carlisle are among the numerous celebrities who act as mental health ambassadors. Some have partnered with workplace campaigns designed to open up communications between organisations and their staff.

As employers have become more aware of, and open to, the importance of supporting employees’ mental health, many have introduced initiatives to identify and help those suffering from related issues. This is undoubtedly a positive step forward, but unless such measures are communicated and utilised to their maximum potential, there is a risk that, for some organisations, putting these in place may simply be a tick-box exercise.

If employees are unaware of the benefits available to them, or an organisation does not fully commit to implementing mental health support to its full potential, this represents a real lost opportunity for both the organisation and affected employees.

Employers should also bear in mind the potential impact of broader benefits schemes on employees’ psychological health. Recognition schemes, for example, can impact mental wellbeing, be it positively or negatively, depending on how they are run. Feeling undervalued or not being recognised for a job well done, for example, can have an adverse effect on an individual’s wellbeing.

Ensuring benefits schemes are used effectively and achieve their intended results, therefore, can be a key strand of an organisation’s mental wellbeing strategy.

So wherever you are with mental health support in your organisation, Mental Health Week was designed to help you take this to the next level through exclusive insights and opinions uncovering best practice in this area. These included:

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck
Tweet: @DebbieLovewell