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Employers need to encourage staff to use EAP and counselling services to access mental health support says Punter Southall Health & Protection and Red Arc

In recent weeks, mental health has been high on the news agenda

The ‘Heads Together’ campaign, spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry has placed the issue of our national mental health firmly in the spotlight.

And, as this week marks Mental Health Awareness week, it’s a good opportunity to look at how companies are addressing mental health issues in the workplace.

A report from the CIPD , showed that the number of people that have experienced mental health problems at work has grown from a quarter to a third over the last five years. The mental health charity, Mind also found that mental health issues such as stress is now the number one cause of workplace absence.

With the amount of time people spend at work, employers are in a unique position to put strategies in place to help employees with mental health issues. How many are doing this effectively and what support are they offering?

In February, Punter Southall Health & Protection published our second annual wellbeing research report in association with Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA) ‘Employee Wellbeing Research 2017: The evolution of workplace wellbeing in the UK,’ which uncovered several trends about mental health.

Our research found that 45% of companies have a clearly-defined wellbeing strategy in place, compared to less than a third (30%) in 2016 – and 82% of these strategies now include mental health, with a further 15% of employers saying they plan to add mental health initiatives to their strategy in 2017.

More than half (56%) of employers said that mental health support is one of the most effective wellbeing initiatives for their business, together with employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and on-site medical support.

Beate O’Neil, Head of Wellbeing Consulting said: “It’s important that employers start to proactively manage the mental health of their staff to tackle issues before they escalate. A happy and healthy workforce is likely to be a more productive and engaged workforce, so looking after employee wellbeing – both mentally and physically – is a win-win for everyone.” 

“It’s widely recognised that an important part in helping someone suffering from mental health issues is to give them a safe and secure environment to discuss their problems. Talking is often the first step on the road to recovery. EAPs and employer provided counselling services have a vital role in enabling such conversations to take place.”

Christine Husbands, managing director of RedArc Nurses, which provides mental health support in the workplace, said: “Mental health conditions can often be very isolating, and with the NHS so stretched there is often very little time to allocate to patients. Waiting lists for counselling and other mental health therapies can also be very long, so people can find themselves with extended periods of illness.”

“This can cause an additional level of stress for the individual, meaning their condition could escalate as well as a potentially longer spell of absence from work. Early intervention is key in supporting employees with mental health conditions: our mental health support categorically proves that early intervention for mental health significantly expedites recovery.

“For employers this means taking two actions: selecting group risk, health insurance products or Employee Assistance Programmes that offer third-party support services with a proven track record of specialist mental health support; and secondly, communicating their availability to their staff. If employees are not aware of these services, or they’re not fully understood they’ll be under-utilised.”

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