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Royal grief revelations help eradicate mental health stigma in the workplace

Prince Harry’s recent mental health revelations have given Tayside employers the perfect opportunity to recognise their role in raising awareness about the importance of discussing the issue in the workplace.

Speaking out as part of the Heads Together campaign (#oktosay) during Mental Health Awareness Week, the young prince revealed how he sought counselling after 20 years of bottling up grief over the death of his mother, Diana Princess of Wales.

Alan Matthew, employment law expert at Tayside-based solicitors Miller Hendry, believes employers have an important role to play in making sure the message isn’t forgotten.

He commented: “By having strategies that focus on mental health as part of employee wellbeing, businesses can help drive individual support, as well as improving the bottom line. They may also avoid potential complaints or even litigation from staff.”


Estimates by ACAS suggest that around £30bn is lost each year through lost production, recruitment and absence arising through mental health issues and it’s estimated that employers should be able to cut these costs by around a third, if they implement better management practices to support ‘mental-healthiness’ in the workplace.

Recent research by the Mental Health Foundation, the charity behind Mental Health Awareness Week, found that nearly two-thirds of people in Britain have experienced a mental health problem. The figure is higher for women than for men, and for young adults between 18 and 34 and people living alone.

A recent workplace study found that those suffering from mental health issues were 37% more likely to get into conflict with colleagues, 80% found it difficult to concentrate and 50% are potentially less patient with customers and clients.

“It’s the cloak of invisibility that may mean things are ignored or potentially mishandled,” Alan Matthew continued.

“There’s often an unwillingness to raise the issue, as people find it hard to talk about mental health. They may feel there is a stigma, or that it could have an impact on their longer-term prospects, if they feel they may be judged as not strong enough.

“Employers can help by putting support structures in place, with an open attitude to communication, which can drive better understanding as well as helping to address their legal obligations. 

“But, whatever the extent of an individual’s mental health issues, all are equally in need of responsible support and protection from unfair or discriminatory treatment. There is a responsibility on the employer to tackle mental, as well as physical health in the workplace and hard-wire it into all aspects of their recruitment and employment policies.”

Tips for employers include:

• Have a policy that specifically addresses mental health issues and encourages everyone to feel able to talk about the subject, with a clear route to raise any problems. This should be well published across the business, as well as being included in the staff handbook.   

• Encourage everyone to understand the issue, through disability and equality training, and equip line managers to identify potential mental health issues.

• Establish support networks for employees to access, whether HR-led internal support, or through external employee assistance programmes providing access to counselling, medical insurance or occupational health.

Alan Matthew added: “Whether recruiting, or with an existing employee, it’s important to focus on the ability of an individual to do the job and, if they have any physical or mental impairments, to consider whether reasonable adjustments could be made to enable them to fulfil the role.” 



Posted 20/06/2017


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