Health & Safety

Mental Health Awareness Within H&S and The Workplace

Health and Safety Workplace Cultures

Naturally Mental Health issues can occur throughout all workplaces and industries. Poor mental health can affect any one of us. However, within the Health and Safety industries, there are some environments where raising concern about these issues is difficult. For example, within the Construction Industry there is a workplace culture which draws on ‘’traditional masculinity’’.

This culture can be seen across the Health and Safety industries. For instance, Referenced from The SHP Road to Well-Being eBook: ”Referencing Robin Ely of Harvard Business School: Macho Culture is also endangering the workplace by creating a culture where people felt they “had to prove themselves” rather than assess risk. One example of cultural change was on an oil rig, where without any new procedures, accidents were reduced by 84%. It was by changing the ethos on the oil rig to making an outcome together in a safe way, and having a safe environment where it is okay to have a safe psychological space, where you can say: “I’m not sure I know how to do that. ” (SHP The road to Well-being eBook, 2019).

Making Positive Changes

The Mates in Mind campaign aims to raise awareness within the Construction Industry. They aim to address the stigma of poor mental health and improve positive mental well-being in the UK construction industry (Mates in Mind, 2019).

This campaign aims to portray mental health awareness in a positive light. The fundamental aim is to encourage individuals to confidently talk about issues they may be facing. This is a microcosm of how mental health can be handled within Health and Safety, and across all industries. Construction is not the only industry with people suffering in silence.

According to the IOSH Promoting Mental Health at Work Leaflet;

  • At any one time, one in six workers experience mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety
  • Work-related stress, anxiety and depression potentially cost Great Britain an estimated £6.6 billion in 2014–15
  • Stress-related absence in the past year is reported to have risen in around 40% of organisations (and half in the public sector) (CIPD, 2015)

Why it’s Important to Raise Awareness of Mental Health

Not only do we have individuals suffering mental health issues which can fester; if workplaces are not proactive about dealing with mental health, there are financial implications for businesses. As with most Health and Safety topics; there are moral, legal and financial reasons for tackling mental health within the workplace. Therefore, it is essential for companies to accommodate mental health and well-being for staff.

By encouraging an openness within the workplace environment, individuals can feel comfortable to admit there is a problem. In addition to the statistics, for most individuals, ignoring their issues only make them worse. Mental health can make individuals feel isolated, lonely, stressed and anxious. Therefore, normalising discussion around the subject allows staff to feel comfortable talking about what they are going through.

The need to raise awareness of Mental Health, and how to deal with it in the workplace is mandatory. Between 2003 and 2013, 18,220 people with mental health problems took their own life in the UK; and in 2017 alone, there were 5,821 suicides recorded (Mental Health Foundation, 2019). Of these, 75% were male (and 25% female). This reiterates the fact that mental health awareness is imperative in male-dominated work environments.

How to Help

Initially management in an organisation need to identify that someone may potentially have an issue. Overall, any significant changes in behaviour can be an indication. Notably, a change in eating, smoking or drinking. In addition to this, others may experience: mood swings, irritability, nervousness or withdrawal. It is important to remember that everyone is different, and people deal with mental health in various ways. Even those you consider to be fine could be suffering.

Finally, once you have identified there is an issue, you may be unaware of how to assist colleagues. Here are some ways you can aid yourself with the correct knowledge to help others:

  • You could take a NEBOSH National Certificate in the Management of Health and Well-Being course. This is a highly recognised qualification, which equips managers with the knowledge of how to manage Health and Well-being in the Workplace
  • As Mental Health charity Mind suggest: Create a culture that supports staff to be open about their Mental Health (Mind, 2019). Have a concise plan of support implemented within company policies. This informs staff of the route to follow should they have issues that need to be discussed.  Downloading the above handout from Mind, will help to improve culture surrounding Mental Health & implementing change
  • Alternatively, staff members may wish to partake in a Mental Health First Aid Course. MHFA England can provide training. Furthermore, their website has useful tips on how you can implement Mental Health First Aiders in your company.

Remember, change doesn’t occur overnight. However, if you wish to make a difference there is no time like the present.

Sources:

https://mhfaengland.org/

https://www.matesinmind.org/

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-suicide

Michelle Whitney, BA (Hons)

RRC Digital Marketing Assistant, Blogger & Writer

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