Let’s get talking – World Mental Health Day
It is World Mental Mental Health day today. The aim is to raise the profile of mental health issues, to end the stigma associated with disclosing mental health problems and to encourage people not to bottle things up. Let’s get talking, might be a neat way to summarise it.
In the UK there are lots of initiatives aimed at employers and business such as the BITC Toolkit, Time to Talk, and the This is Me campaign. Among the larger corporates in the financial sector there are some excellent examples of businesses who have led the way in ending the stigma – and City Mental Health Alliance is a great leadership body – have a look at some of the stats and stories on their website – citymha.org.uk.
It is estimated that one in four Londoners every year will experience a diagnosable mental health condition, and a report by the GLA in 2014 estimated the cost to London of mental ill-health at £26bn each year.
Many of the largest employers, including many ELBA partners, have excellent internal welfare programmes but we have found that stepping away from the very largest firms, even fairly major businesses really struggle to know what to do when an employee discloses a mental health condition. There are support services available, but they are not well known, can often not respond fast enough and in some cases rely on referral from a GP rather than a referral from the employer. What can often happen is that the situation ends in a messy departure, leaving the employer with the costs of re-hiring and training, and the ex-employee with the trauma of dealing both with the illness and the loss of employment and wherewithal. The draw on public resources can then involve unemployment and housing benefits, loss of tax revenue, NHS services, social services and retraining and return to work. It can take a very long time to help a person living with or recovering from mental health conditions to get back into work. There is some wonderful assistance available based on Individual Placement Services, but they are not yet universal and they are expensive if they are done well.
Wouldn’t it be better to take a proportion of that public spend and instead put it into helping to keep the person in work? The help would be provided to the employer and employee, based on a rapid response and could be triggered directly by the employer. This would save the public purse a lot of money, the employer re-hire costs and lost productivity, and the employee a whole heap of lost confidence, health, wealth and dignity.
Such a service aimed at employers could be combined with the general awareness raising and training for employers and managers spearheaded by Mental Health First Aid England (10,000 people trained per month!).
We have been working with a number of partners to promote the idea of such a retention service to health and social care funders, but it is very difficult for lots of understandable reasons to shift funding from crisis response to preventative work – even though it saves money in the end. We will keep on trying. But in the meantime don’t wait – every employer can do something to help increase mental well-being in the workplace. Just start talking about it.