On October 10th we will be celebrating World Mental Health Day, with the theme “Mental Health is a Universal Human Right”.
With 1 in 4 people suffering from a diagnosed mental health condition in their lifetime, we know that mental ill-health does not discriminate. It can affect anyone, at any time. Despite this, we continue to see harmful stigmas infiltrate our workplaces, limiting the opportunity for those with mental health conditions to access the support and opportunities they deserve. This World Mental Health Day presents a valuable opportunity for employers to better understand how stigma can be identified and addressed and for employees to be equipped with an understanding of their rights relating to workplace mental health.
What is stigma and how does it relate to mental health at work?
Mental health stigma is defined by a level of prejudice or discrimination towards those with mental health conditions, often influencing their opportunities in interpersonal, societal and workplace contexts.
Whilst 80% of UK employees believe that stigma requires immediate action in their workplace, only 23% of employers report having implemented such action. Resultantly, stigma remains a pervasive barrier in UK work environments. Indeed, 73% of UK employees report feeling unable to disclose mental ill-health for fear that that doing so would jeopardize their job status. Similarly, 91% of UK employees believe that people with mental health problems are treated differently. Resultantly, many workers feel unable to access appropriate workplace support with research consistently highlighting a reticence to avail of workplace counselling programs for fear that it would lead to discrimination at work.
Am I protected from mental health discrimination at work?
Absolutely. Under the “Health and Safety at Work Act (1974)” employers have a duty of care to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of all employees at work. Whilst this legislation has a broad scope, the Disability Discrimmination Act (1995) and Equality Act (2010) provide further specific protection to those living with disabilities, including mental health conditions. A mental health condition is considered a disability, and therefore covered by the equality act if:
Under the Equality Act (2010) it is unlawful for employers to discriminate on the grounds of disability including in relation to an employee’s terms and conditions, benefits, opportunities for promotion, performance reviews, handling of absences, pay, training, and the termination of employment. Examples of such unlawful discrimination may include:
Additionally, if your mental health condition meets any of the above criteria, your employer has a legal obligation to provide reasonable adjustments in order to prevent, remove or reduce disadvantages and obstacles you may experience in the workplace. Examples of reasonable adjustments include:
How can employers prevent mental health stigma and discrimination in the workplace?
Mental health discrimination is absolutely preventable. Here are some evidence-based strategies to foster an inclusive workplace which allows all employees to thrive:
When managing an employee with a mental health condition, it is important to remember that every person is different and has different needs. What worked well for one employee with mental ill-health, may not be appropriate for another employee. As a result, work in partnership with the individual in order to understand and meet their specific needs. Individuals may have lived with a specific mental health concern for a considerable period of time. Resultantly, they are often already aware of strategies and adjustments which will aid them in managing their condition. You can also use the guidance of other professionals including the individual’s GP, occupational health or human resources, to ensure that any action taken places the individual at the centre of their own wellbeing plan.
Tackling stigma and discrimination must be intentional and consistent. This may start with visibly committing to an inclusive mental health policy. When employees observe that their senior leads are committed to ending workplace discrimination, they may feel better able disclose their mental health conditions and utilize available support within the workplace.
Stigma often stems from a lack of understanding and knowledge. Indeed, 58% of employees would feel uncomfortable starting a conversation with a colleague about mental health and only 25% of UK managers feel able to spot the early warning signs of mental ill-health. At AMH Works, that proactive and preventative measures help create workplaces where mental health thrives. Our team of expert trainers and consultants offer evidence-based workshops and training sessions including Mindful Manager, Mental Health Awareness, Stress Management, Mental Health First Aid and more. Each session is designed to dispel stigma, boost staff morale, improve employee wellbeing, enhance team culture, increase productivity and reduce sickness absence. To find out more about how AMH Works can help, visit: INSERT NEW WEB LINK HERE
Further Support and Signposting:
If you or someone you know are suffering from poor mental health, you are not alone. As many as one in four adults in Northern Ireland experience signs of a mental health issue every year. Help is available:
Reach out to your GP: When you talk to your GP about your mental health, they will listen, give you advice and introduce you to a mental health service they think will be most helpful to you. These services may come from your GP surgery, a large local health centre, a specialist mental health clinic or a hospital.
Lifeline: Lifeline is a free 24/7 crisis response helpline service for those experiencing distress or despair. Lifeline is there to help 24 hours a day and can be contacted on: 0808 808 8000
Samaritans: Samaritans is a registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope or at risk of suicide throughout the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, often through its telephone helpline: 116 123
AMH New Life Counselling: AMH New Life Counselling provides high quality counselling services across Greater Belfast. Further information can be found at: https://www.amh.org.uk/new-life-counselling/
Details of further support services and helplines in Northern Ireland can be foundat: https://helplinesni.com/ or on the “Here 2 Help” app.