How Mental Health Training in The Workplace Helps Employees
July 12, 2020
Table of Contents
Mental Health Awareness Programmes Can Save Lives and Money
Why your company must implement mental health training sessions? Because mental health issues are easy to overlook especially in the workplace. The struggles of people who suffer from mental health disorders are real but it’s difficult to speak about.
Mental health problems that are not tackled lead to low productivity, absenteeism, poor communication between employees. It’s important to successfully recognize signs of common mental health issues. The most common symptoms are stress, burnout, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and self-harm.
Why training in the workplace? Because we spend significant time in our lives at work, so inevitably it influences our mental wellbeing.
In the first part of this article, I am looking at the benefits of mental health training for employees. The second part is focused on the mental health programmes for managers. It looks like well-prepared leaders can sustain the well-being of their employees but also boost performance and decrease sickness absence.
Read below what people think about their struggles at work.
‘I feel like the only person at work that has issues. I constantly feel like I need to fill a role that I can’t mentally achieve.’
‘What happens when your employer doesn’t believe in mental health and when you do speak to them they tell all the staff? They make me feel like I’m using mental health as an excuse. I am a kind person but inside I feel like exploding.’
How Employees Can Benefit
A study from Australia (Kitchener, B. A., & Jorm, A. F., 2004) showed that after 3 weekly sessions of Mental Health First Aid, the participants recorded confidence in providing help to others, greater likelihood of advising people to seek professional help, and decreased stigmatizing attitudes.
Surprisingly, the findings showed that the mental health of participants improved as well.
Confidence in providing help to others
Many times we are reluctant to approach people who seem upset because we don’t know how to help them. When we are prepared how to handle others’ crisis we are more willing to go and help them.
Greater likelihood of advising people to seek professional help
Seeking support should be the first step when it comes to poor mental health. Encouraging others to seek help it’s a must but not everyone does it. Maybe because we are not aware of how serious mental issues are.
Mental health training in the workplace setting increases awareness. Awareness motivates people to advise one another that seeking professional help is not shameful and it’s not a weakness.
WHY AWARENESS MATTERS?
Because early detection and intervention can prevent mental health conditions to transform into a crisis that leads to extreme actions like suicide.
Mental health awareness trainings can effectively improve individuals’ knowledge and attitudes surrounding mental health and people with mental health problems.
Stigma is real! Many times stigma is very well hidden, is subconscious.
We don’t even realize that we have a preconceived bias when it comes to mental health disorders. We don’t want that, but deep down we still think that people who suffer from mental health illnesses are different and they can’t fit into the mould of society.
Well, this study in Australia showed that mental health stigma is decreased after such mental health training at the workplace. And I think it’s wonderful because we spend a significant amount of time at work and we have a chance to make a positive impact on our colleagues.
Leaders’ Mental Health Literacy is Crucial
A three-hour mental health awareness training for leaders in Canada showed that supervisors’ mental health literacy can influence the wellbeing of the employees. What is more, managers who support their employees determine speedier returns to work for individuals on disability leave.
Approximately 350 managers and supervisors from a large Canadian company were invited to participate in mental health awareness training.
Supervisors communicate regularly with their employees and they are aware of the psychological demands of the job tasks. Also, they are the first who should be able to spot changes in the behaviours of the employees. And the most important of all, they have the authority to implement adjustments to working conditions.
I still remember when my line manager called me to speak with her privately. Because it was my first job in the UK I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I did something wrong or there was something important I should know. I was surprised when she told me she just wanted to chat with me for 10 minutes to ask me how I was and if I needed anything.
Because I experience anxiety regularly and I am also an introvert, the first few months at this job were rough and the simple gesture of someone asking me how I was it was phenomenal.
Back in my native country, managers would ask you sometimes how are you but they rarely come and talk privately with you, unless it is related to your job performance.
‘For leaders to successfully promote mental health, engage with employees, and discuss mental health in the workplace, they must first develop self-efficacy surrounding their knowledge of mental health and their ability to offer appropriate support and resources to struggling employees.’
But how impactful is to have managers and supervisors who are equipped to provide mental health support to the company staff? Are the benefits so great that we should advocate for each company to implement a mental health awareness programme into their workplace?
Let’s see what studies indicate.
LESS STIGMA, MORE MENTAL WELL-BEING
Did you know?
Stigma has been identified as one of the major factors associated with the underemployment of individuals with mental illness (Stuart, 2004). Employers have reported a reluctance to hire or to promote individuals with histories of mental illness (Nicholas, 1998).
The study in Canada showed that leaders who have a greater knowledge about mental health will hold fewer negative attitudes and will support fewer stereotypes than leaders who have relatively low levels of knowledge about mental health.
The greatest problem that stigma creates is that people are less willing to seek professional help. Once employees feel that they won’t be stigmatized by their superiors because of their mental struggles, they may ask for support. Otherwise, employees will hide their problems because of shame and fear of being judged or even losing their job.
More Awareness, More Support and Less Sickness Leave
The same study in Canada showed that companies who implement such programmes can prevent costly mental health disorders from developing or escalating. This is because leaders are equipped with the skills needed to recognize and support employees with their mental health issues.
Depression, anxiety and stress are the most prevailing mental health conditions experienced in the workplace. These issues can cause sickness absence because they impact the wellbeing of those affected.
Mental health training prepares the supervisors to intervene as soon as they note early signs of distress to their employees.
The sooner the employee receives appropriate help, the easier is to improve productivity, performance, and attendance-related issues.
Mental illness is one of the most rapidly growing causes of long-term sickness absence across developed countries and this phenomena is related to changes in the way society and workplaces perceive mental illness and its effect on work capacity.
There was another trial of manager mental health training within a large Australian fire and rescue service, with a 6-month follow-up. They assessed sickness absence records of the firefighters and station officers. The training had a significant effect on the amount of sickness absence.
Mental health training courses build a bridge between employees who struggle to communicate their mental health issues and managers who are there to support their teams.
People feel free to talk and leaders are prepared to listen and help.
The more we talk about mental health issues at the workplace, the easier will be to counteract the negative effects of stress, anxiety and burn out.
The studies mentioned here are just a few of those that have been conducted all over the world. The results agree that workplaces that implemented mental health awareness programmes experienced a boost in productivity, an increase in employees mental wellbeing and fewer days of sick leave.