It’s #timetotalk… about Mental Health

Following our successful Shape & Share event on 15th March , we asked Ian Sutcliffe, director of Valentis Advisory to share his insights on mental health in the workplace, here he explains why it’s #timetotalk;

Approximately 1 in 4 adults in England have been diagnosed with mental ill-health, while 1 in 5 report experiencing mental health issues without being diagnosed.

Mental health issues are responsible for 91 million working days lost in the UK and the Chief Medical Officer in Sept 2014 estimated the cost to the UK economy at £70-£100 billion per year.

Simply translating those numbers to the UK General Insurance (GI) workforce of 305,500 (ABI UK Insurance & Long-Term Savings Key Facts 2017) equates to 852,776 lost days and £655-£937 million per year. If these costs were caused by any other external factor, such as fraud, we simply wouldn’t let it go so easily.

Unless we begin to talk about mental health issues, raise awareness in our businesses and sector and start to promote wellbeing programmes, this challenge will only get worse as the tail-end of the Millennial generation and Generation Z begin to enter the workplace over the coming years.

The Prince’s Trust 2019 Youth Index identifies that 65% of young people (aged 16 to 25) feel anxious or stressed ‘always’ or ‘often’. Another startling statistic which means, as leaders and employers, we have a duty and a responsibility to ensure our places of work offer practical help and guidance to ensure our people feel better supported in the workplace.

Mental health issues are not necessarily caused at work, although of course they can be. One thing is certain though, people suffering cannot simply switch off from their issues as they cross the work threshold so as an employer, you and your customers are very likely to suffer the consequences of somebody not being on their game. Doing nothing is no longer an option.

I have worked in the GI sector for nearly 30 years now and whilst we don’t always get things right, I genuinely believe that we pride ourselves on being progressive and supportive towards our employees and customers and NOW is the time to stand up for the mental health of our people by truly creating a culture of awareness and support.

The UK Government is currently debating legislation to introduce Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) in the workplace. It is believed that this may happen in some form and, as a certified MHFA, I support this move however, it simply doesn’t go far enough if we are to make real change.

It won’t be surprising to learn that mental and physical health go hand-in-hand and whilst it isn’t always the case that a physically healthy person will not suffer from mental health issues, getting good sleep, eating well and undertaking regular exercise is known to promote positive mental health and, support recovery from the symptoms of mental ill-health.

Any progressive business should now be working to implement a structured and effective Employee Wellbeing Programme which should include a wellbeing strategy, mental health awareness training for all members of staff, mental health champions to promote awareness and wellbeing, certified mental health first aiders available to talk, listen and support people suffering with issues or ill-health, employee assistance programme and, access to occupational health therapy where required.

Are you going to leave your people to suffer or, are you going to support the GI sector in leading the way in promoting positive mental health in the workplace?