Taking mental health seriously

In his second post, Archie argues that workplaces need to act if they are really taking mental health seriously.

Back in August our Librarian, Andrew Russell, wrote in our blog about a symposium he attended which highlighted the importance of good mental health in the workplace. Since that blog post, a report by the DWP and the Department of Health showed that up to 300,000 jobs were lost due to mental health issues. This information caused a stir among the major news outlets when the report was published, but let’s be honest, it hardly shocking. The Lancet has published several reports over the last decade which show just how prevalent mental health issues are, claiming that mental illnesses top the Global Burden of Disease, as measured by Years Lived with Disability, ahead of both cardiovascular and circulatory diseases. Whilst the World Health Organisation estimate that depressive disorders alone will occupy the top of that list by 2030.

An annual cost to the UK economy of between £74 billion and £99 billion? 300,000 jobs lost a year? No, not very shocking.

I honestly believe that the ‘Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers’ report is hugely beneficial. These sorts of reports and figures lead to more dialogue and help further understanding of how mental health issues affect society. However, merely offering “six core standards” as a way to combat mental health issues will not prevent very much. It’s been a month since the report and I haven’t heard of or seen any changes. Why? Because organisations respond to actions, not recommendations. The only ‘real’ recent legislation regarding mental health in the workplace was the 2010 equality act, but this is mainly protecting people with mental health issues (and disabilities) from discrimination, it isn’t proactive. The government could do more than empty manifesto promises and continuous platitudes – “transform how mental health is regarded in the workplace” springs to mind. There needs to be legislation. Enforce regular monitoring of wellbeing, introduce wellbeing programmes and have better support systems in place both internally and externally (government run helplines etc.). It’s only been 18 years since Danna and Griffin (1999) showed how wellbeing programmes reduce sick days and staff turnover whilst increasing productivity, job moral and job satisfaction. Maybe it’s time to respond to the consistent findings that poor mental health is pathological to businesses. Clearly the moral reasoning isn’t enough, maybe organisations and the government will be incentivised by the potential financial benefits of good mental health in the workplace.

Danna, K., & Griffin, R. W. (1999). Health and well-being in the workplace: a review and synthesis of the literature. Journal of Management, (3). 357.

Relevant articles

http://www.who.int/mental_health/advocacy/en/Call_for_Action_MoH_Intro.pdf

http://www.who.int/mental_health/management/depression/wfmh_paper_depression_wmhd_2012.pdf

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