When was the last time you asked someone how they were? For most people it’s one of the first things you ask.
Now when was the last time you spoke to someone about their mental health? You may not realise it, but you most likely work and socialise with someone who manages an invisible condition, such as depression.
Today’s World Health Day focuses on the importance of talking about depression and mental health, and I want more employers to start having these conversations in the workplace. It’s vital that someone with a mental health issue is given the chance to open up to someone and discuss how they’re feeling, to help relieve the pressure they may be keeping to themselves.
Almost one in five of all working age people are affected by a mental health condition, including anxiety and depression. And yet people are still apprehensive about talking mental health at work.
Lingering stigma around mental health leaves people worried they’ll be viewed differently if they talk about their condition at work. Equally, people are hesitant to raise the topic because of worry they’ll say the wrong thing.
We need to make talking about issues like depression in the workplace the norm.
We’re currently spending more than ever before on mental health. In January the Prime Minister announced plans to transform mental health support, appointing Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind and Lord Dennis Stevenson, long time mental health campaigner, to lead a review into how best to ensure employees with mental health problems can thrive in work.
Being employed can have enormous benefits for people’s mental health and we’re ensuring that people with depression and other mental health conditions receive the support they need to get in and stay in work.
The recent Work, Health and Disability Green Paper makes clear the importance of treating physical disabilities and mental health conditions with equal care and concern. It lays out plans for a Personal Support Package that will tailor support to an individual’s condition. We are opening up the conversation about disabilities, mental health and work.
Increased funding to Access to Work’s Mental Health Support Service, means over 1,000 more people can enter the programme each year. This important scheme lets people with a disability or health condition, including mental health issues, access a grant of up to £42,000 to make adjustments to their workplace. This can include specialist equipment, a support worker or job coach, and even awareness training for colleagues. Of those with mental health conditions who have accessed the programme, over 90% are still in work after 6 months.
The success of the programme shows the impact that open and frank conversations about mental health can have.
At Jobcentre Plus we’re building on work coaches’ existing expertise. The Green Paper announced funding for an extra 300 Disability employment advisers across the country to give expert insight into health issues, particularly mental health conditions. When someone with a disability goes to a jobcentre, they’ll be met by people trained to understand their condition, and help them find work that’s suitable.
We’re also bringing in 200 Community Partners – people from local charities and disability groups, who can provide an overview of the local area, the care available and the employment opportunities for disabled people.
My plan is that every jobcentre will be able to offer a wide range of support, for both job seekers and employers. Make sure you take full advantage of it.
World Health Day is a fantastic opportunity to start a conversation about work and mental health. Take the time to speak with colleagues, challenge any misconceptions they might have and talk about what more support can be provided. It may make all the difference to someone.