Chris O’Sullivan: Understand the risks facing staff to get the support mix right

Chris O'Sullivan

Mental health is a universal attribute. We all have it, good or bad. We all experience times where we are at our best in work and at home, and we can all think of times when we felt at the edge of coping, or beyond. When we invest in our mental health, or the mental health of the staff that work in our organisations, we invest in those individuals, their families, and in the productivity of the workplace, whatever its mission.

In an operating environment where business needs to be both lean to weather financial turbulence, and attractive and competitive to retain and acquire talent, the support package that exists for staff is critical to attracting the best, and fostering a culture of early access to support, rapid return to work and effectiveness for staff who experience distress, be that arising from life events like bereavement, or from mental health problems such as depression or bipolar disorder.

Businesses provide a range of financial, physical and emotional wellbeing offers for employees. Getting the mix of these right is a challenge best met by understanding the risks faced by staff, the needs framed by the operating environment of the business, and the priorities staff express via engagement activities.

Increasingly, we are seeing that focusing on improved mental health as an outcome can provide a unifying theme to support packages. These usually involve early access to evidence-based treatment or information, direct support to mitigate the effect of absence and loss of earnings, vocational rehabilitation for physical injury or illness that should include the psychological impacts, or anonymous support for concerns with family, relationships, debt and housing. All of these are major factors in mental health.

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Mental health can be the thread that brings together support across a business, to ensure a compassionate response to distress, rapid access, and return to work and all the benefits that can bring to an organisation and to an individual.

Chris O’Sullivan, programme lead, business development and engagement at the Mental Health Foundation