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Five benefits of having mental health champions in the workplace

Learning and Development Team

Mental health has been a hot topic over the past year, but why is it so important that workplaces make mental health a priority?

The change and uncertainty caused by the pandemic has shifted how we think, feel and behave and, whilst many proactively look after their mental health to prevent an issue from arising, there is no doubt that some people do become unwell and require further support.

Data from report by Westfield Health (Coping with Covid, 2021) highlights that, compared to 2019, 2020 has seen a 10% increase in the amount of days employees took off work due to mental health issues, at a total cost to businesses of £14bn per year.

Furthermore, employees seem to be struggling in silence... when asked about morale, wellbeing and productivity in their organisation, employees perceive the current situation far more negatively than HR teams.

Dave Capper, Westfield Health chief executive, said: “As we know, Covid-19 is having a huge impact on employees’ mental health, the scars from which may not be visible, let alone heal, for many years and have arguably changed our connection to work and colleagues permanently.”

The million-dollar question here is, are workplaces doing enough to fulfil their duty of care for employees?

One in three employees say they have suffered from severe stress, anxiety, or depression in the last two years (Willis Towers Watson’s Global Benefits Attitudes Survey (GBAS), 2019) 

Over a third of employees (35%) reported mental wellbeing as ‘not good’ or ‘not good at all’, compared to only 7% of HR leaders. (Coping with Covid, 2021).

The fear and stigma around mental health conversations, especially at the workplace, are so much that, quite often, such conversations are avoided all together. This avoidance can have long lasting consequences for employees and businesses.

Mental health problems in the UK workforce costs employers an estimated £35bn a year, which amounts to almost £1,300 for every employee. (Centre for Mental Health)

This is where Mental Health First Aid Champions (MHFA Champions), who are trained to offer help and support to colleagues and to promote mental health awareness, can make all the difference for organisations.

Five benefits of having mental health champions in the workplace

  1. Preventive approach to mental health issues. By up-skilling and developing greater awareness around mental health, MHFA Champions carry out activities that encourage healthy behaviours and encourage others to proactively look after themselves.
  2. A safe place to talk. MHFA Champions can act as a confidante, helping to spot the early signs of mental health issues and signposting the appropriate sources of support and professional help.
  3. Reduced stigma and fear of judgment. MHFA Champions can gather employee feedback on how to improve mental health at work and give a voice to those who may not normally wish to speak up.
  4. Improved wellbeing in the workplace. MHFA Champions can advise workplaces on areas of need or concern and be involved in the conception or review of an organisation’s wellbeing or mental health policy.
  5. Commitment to employee wellbeing. By training MHFA Champions, organisations show their commitment to taking the mental health and wellbeing of their employees seriously. With some of today's most respected global businesses, this is a critical component of the overall organisational strategy to build a culture of openness and understanding.

Although the existence of mental health champions is becoming popular for many organisations, it is important that all employees are aware of mental health and the support that is available for them both in and outside the workplace. Ideally, all managers should be trained in recognising the signs of mental ill-health, how to manage someone who is experiencing challenges, and where to direct them for internal and external support.

How to become a Mental Health First Aid Champion?

In April, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) is launching, Mental Health First Aid Champion training for individuals and employers. This one-day course is available as a live virtual workshop that will provide you with:

  • An understanding of common mental health issues
  • Knowledge and confidence to advocate for mental health awareness
  • Ability to spot signs of mental ill health
  • Skills to support positive wellbeing.

Although this course is available to anyone, it may be of particular interest to line managers as it covers sources of workplace stress in detail, as well as recommended management and organisational practices.

Find out more - mental health first aid champion 

IMechE resources and training

As part of IMechE’s efforts to promote good mental health and wellbeing, we offer:

For more information about Mental Health training, please contact the training team at training@imeche.org or visit imeche.org/training.

If you are an IMechE member, IMechE Support Network can help you and your family with counselling, social visits, and other specialist support when you need it.

Further resources

Report: Coping with Covid: The hidden cost to businesses (and their people).

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