Posted on 21st March 2019 at 14:28
In November of last year, business leaders and unions wrote an open letter to the leaders of our county urging them to give as much weight to mental health as physical. Their message was simple: trivialising workplace mental health is inviting low productivity, poor profitability and severely impacting people’s quality of life.
“Equalise the number of mental health first aiders with physical first aiders” they called in unison. “Break the stigma of mental health in the workplace”.
Why is mental health training eclipsed by physical first aid?
Mental illness is certainly not a new phenomenon. What is new is the conversation surrounding it. Mental health affects our psychological, social and emotional wellbeing. Basically, everything that cannot be seen by the naked eye unless it is known what to look for.
The mental health movement has certainly seen an increase in businesses taking notice and implementing mental health measures. But statistics show that employers are still more willing to cram their workplaces full of first-aid boxes and teach CPR than they are to focus on mental health.
This is largely down to the following three reasons:
Employers aren’t sure how to tackle mental health. Physical first aid is a breeze in comparison.
Health and safety standards in the UK are world-class and workplace lawsuits can have serious repercussions for profitability and reputation – something employers can’t risk.
The costs of mental health action outweigh those of a few first aid boxes.
Awareness is brilliant but action is essential
Raising awareness is great – mental health is more documented now than ever before. But this can only go so far to breaking down the barriers surrounding mental health, much in the same way that creating noise around plastic in the ocean can only go so far to stopping the issue.
The letter, which had backing from big names like Alistair Campbell and Len McCluskey, argued that cost should not be a consideration because spending money on improving workplace mental health is an investment.
‘Each year, workplace mental health issues cost the UK economy almost £35 billion, with 15.4 million working days lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. But the cost is not just financial’ they said.
‘Left untreated mental ill health impacts a person’s relationships with friends and family and ultimately their quality of life.’