Lovewell’s logic: How can we further open up conversations around mental health?

Debbie Lovewell Tuck Editor Employee Benefits conversations mental healthAs Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, what can we take away from this?

Events of the last few years, such as the cost-of-living crisis, have impacted many individualsā€™ mental wellbeing. Research published this week by financial wellbeing platform provider Wagestream found that 54% of the employees surveyed said their mental health has declined due to concerns about their financial situation. Some 60% said they worry about their finances on a weekly basis, while 21% do so every day.

Despite the inevitable impact this will have on their working lives, affecting factors such as their concentration and productivity, approximately three-quarters (74%) have not told their employer about the financial issues they are facing for varying reasons. However, one-third said they would not seek professional advice if their mental health was suffering due to their financial situation.

This leaves employers in a catch-22 situation. Many organisations are more than happy to take steps to support their employeesā€™ mental health and wellbeing, and indeed, a great number have done so. But this can only be effective if staff are prepared to admit they need help and take up the support available.

In some instances, there appears to be a real disconnect between what employees say they want from their employer when it comes to mental wellbeing support, and what they are ultimately prepared to take up. Axa Healthā€™s 2024 UK mind health workplace report, also published this week, for example, found that nearly three-quarters (72%) of 18 to 24 year-olds regard mental health benefits and initiatives as an important factor when deciding whether to stay with an employer. Given the age demographic here, however, it may well be that some generations within the workforce are more open to conversations about their mental health with their employer.

Employers should also ensure that working practices do not inadvertently place pressures on employees that, ultimately, prove detrimental to their mental wellbeing. Research published by Perkbox this week found more than half (59%) of the 2,000 UK managers surveyed said that being asked to do more with fewer resources had impacted their mental wellbeing. Given approximately three-quarters (73%) had been tasked with doing more with fewer resources, this is a significant proportion that may be suffering as a result.

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With employers and employees facing significant pressures from many angles, mental wellbeing support is arguably more important than ever. So many employers now offer fantastic support for their workforces, there is no excuse for individuals to not be able to access support. However, in some instances it feels as if there are still hurdles to overcome before some individuals feel comfortable engaging in conversations about mental health with their employer.

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck
Tweet: @DebbieLovewell