This World Mental Health Day, how can we have 'the conversation' at work?

Workplace wellbeing specialists, the Maria Paviour Company, have published a research report to mark World Mental Health Day, examining changing attitudes to mental health in the workplace.

The report, Hidden Employee Mental Health holds that, particularly among large and medium-sized businesses, acknowledgement of the value of employee mental health initiatives is growing. However, HR professionals are still struggling to diagnose and react effectively to mental health issues in the workplace, with less than 1 in 10 employees willing to disclose them.

Without a solution to this problem, many are at risk of falling into what the paper dubs a 'mental health grey area' – where an issue exists, but is not pronounced enough for it to be recognised and addressed by the people who are supposed to help.

"The missing part of the jigsaw is 'the conversation'", says Maria Paviour, an occupational psychologist and founder of the Maria Paviour Company. "As it stands, organisations have no metrics that identify those employees with whom they should be having a conversation around mental health. Whilst HR is increasingly cognisant of the need for 'the conversation', it is not until mental health has declined significantly that there is any clear indicator that something should or could be done."

To gather insight for the paper, researchers from Sussex Innovation interviewed HR directors and leaders at organisations ranging from 3,000-15,000 employees. Their insights highlighted 4 key reasons that workplace mental health issues currently go unreported:

  • Stigma: while many progressive workplaces have begun to address the stigma around mental health through dialogue, it remains a major barrier for many sufferers
  • Language: employees often lack the words to explain their situation, due to the inconsistent language describing mental health
  • Presenteeism: particularly in competitive industries and workplaces, many staff will refuse to take a leave of absence due to illness, be it physical or mental.
  • Organisation-centric initiatives: many HR professionals recognise that mental health initiatives lose their impact when they give the impression of addressing organisational concerns, rather than helping individuals to overcome their problems.

The Maria Paviour Company has recently launched a new product, CARI™, the 'Commitment & Resilience Index'. The platform is designed to offer a preventive psychological intervention for employers, helping to diagnose issues that lie under the surface and often go unreported due to company culture.

Read the full Hidden Employee Mental Health white paper here.

CARI infographic