Skip to main content

Why bosses matter when it comes to mental health

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Mental health

Unique ID: NHS_UCLH_DAY 1 CALL CENTRE_0045 Caption: Hospital administration, office, call centre. A member of staff looking at the camera, smiling, holding paperwork. People working in background. Restrictions: Copyright: ©

Supporting and promoting the mental wellness of staff is not just about being a caring employer, it’s essential to growing and developing a thriving and profitable business. Mental ill health is one of the leading causes of sickness absence in the UK, accounting for over 15 million sickness absence days in 2013.

Enabling staff to discuss mental health in the workplace and providing access to support is fundamental to helping both a business and its staff flourish and grow.

It’s logical that if your mind is distracted because of something you don’t feel able to discuss with your line manager or your colleagues that you won’t do your best work.

An estimated 1 in 6 working age adults are living with mental health issues at any given time, so most of us will have worked  or will be working with someone affected - or we might be affected ourselves .

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is relationships. At the core of how an organisation responds to mental health is fostering relationships between individuals and their line managers.

This is a relationship that can have a protective factor and can also have a significant impact on an individual’s health and wellbeing, particularly their mental health. This is reflected in NICE’s guidelines on workplace management which emphasises a manager’s key role in supporting the health and wellbeing of staff.

As someone who has experienced mental health issues during my clinical career, I can personally reinforce the difference a good line manager can make.

This is why I was so pleased to see NHS England emphasising the importance of the mental health of NHS staff alongside their physical health, and work being led by NHS Employers on supporting better line management across the NHS.

Enabling staff to discuss mental health in the workplace and providing access to support is fundamental to helping both a business and its staff flourish and grow.

There remains significant societal stigma around mental health issues. So when you experience mental health issues and are struggling with something like the black dog of depression, knowing that your workplace has thought about mental health and your line manager has already thought about the issues before you have to knock on their door, can make a huge difference.

For line managers, thinking about how to respond when a staff member discloses a mental health issue is best done before it happens.

Most of us who manage staff will encounter this situation at some point in our careers and simply being open, supportive and knowing where support is available within and outside the organisation can make a real difference.

Having access to good occupational health support can be helpful both for line managers and for staff members. I would encourage all businesses to think about how they can access professional advice early on, and there is also the Fit For Work service of support.

There are lots of excellent resources available to employers, and therein lies part of the challenge about where to start.  To help with this, PHE has worked in partnership with Business in the Community to develop a Mental Health Toolkit for Employers .

The Toolkit is designed to support employers of all sizes find the right tool at the right time to better support their staff’s mental health.

The resource supports businesses to make a commitment around mental health, embed awareness and culture into training and management practice, and consider how to best support people with mental health issues to remain in, or return to, work.

I hope that during this awareness week employers will take a few minutes to look at the Toolkit and use the opportunity to reflect on what more can be done to truly make our workplaces mentally healthy and safe for all.

Sharing and comments

Share this page