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CEO insight: How European businesses can tackle mental health stigma

Mental health stigma continues to be a growing issue within the workplace. In fact, over two-fifths of employers have seen an increase in the number of ...

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|Sep 30|magazine13 min read

Mental health stigma continues to be a growing issue within the workplace. In fact, over two-fifths of employers have seen an increase in the number of staff reporting mental health problems and almost half of employees, 40 percent, will experience anxiety about their work, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD).

The majority of employees who have disclosed a mental health condition have said that they experienced discrimination in their employment as a result, and most agree that this can be a bigger burden than the illness itself.

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According to our sister publication Business Review Europe, there are ways that business owners can combat stigma in their workplace.

Implement modern measures

Nathaniel Smithies, founder and CEO of online counseling platform PlusGuidance, told Business Review Europe that employers in particular possess a considerable amount of power, and have a responsibility to make an impact.

“One in four [people] will experience a mental health problem and more than two-thirds of individuals with a mental condition say that stigma and the fear of discrimination has prevented them from doing things they want to do,” said Smithies. “Businesses must implement modern measures if they are to transform the stigma of mental illness present in workplaces.”

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Online counseling is one avenue of combating mental health stigma. Through online counseling, employees feel less pressured and anxious in the workplace and increase productivity.

“[PlusGuidance] provides a platform for people to receive immediate access to therapists, securely and discretely, which if implemented in business, could help employers to provide their staff with additional support.”

Additional measures

Healthy Working Wales (HWW) also offers the following tips for employers to consider having in place:

  • In consultation with key stakeholders, develop a corporate policy addressing mental wellbeing in the workplace that links across other related policies.
  • Build awareness through inter-related workplace campaigns.
  • Develop an approach to managing workplace stress based, incorporating the six key management standards identified by the HSE.
  • Provide training across three key levels:
  1. General awareness raising for all employees, including an understanding of stress, the effects of stress and how to recognize stress in yourself and others.
  2. More detailed training for those with key responsibilities in implementing the policy, including training for managers in recognizing stress and the effective management of someone identified as suffering from stress
  3. Introduce and train mental wellbeing link staff to offer a non-management route for staff to raise a mental wellbeing issue.

Company benefits

“It is estimated that 10.4 million working days are lost in the UK every year due to stress, and the average period of stress-related absence is 24 days,” reports HWW.

Employers who promote mental wellbeing in their company have reported seeing reduced stress and anxiety in their employees, increased productivity, lower rates of absenteeism, improvements in communications and a positive corporate image.

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“Whilst mental health stigma is changing, it is not happening quickly enough.  It’s clear that current methods are not as effective as hoped—but by providing a modern approach to mental health, we can reach more people and help support those in need,” concluded Smithies. 

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