What is World Mental Health Day?
World Mental Health Day falls this year on Tuesday 10 October 2023. Embracing this day provides employers with a good platform to initiate vital conversations and create enduring strategies to support good mental health for all. Celebrating the day recognises that mental health challenges can affect anyone at any time and can help start conversations with employees that need support by breaking down barriers surrounding mental health discussions in our workplaces.
The aims of World Mental Health Day are to enhance global awareness of mental health conditions and to catalyse efforts in support of mental health. It provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to discuss their work and highlight what further steps could be taken to make mental health care a reality for all people around the world.
The theme for 2023, set by the World Foundation of Mental Health, is that “mental health is a universal human right”. The World Health Organisation explains that the theme is meant to highlight that “everyone, whoever and wherever they are, has a right to the highest attainable standard of mental health. This includes the right to be protected from mental health risks, the right to available, accessible, acceptable and good quality care, and the right to liberty, independence and inclusion in the community”.
World Mental Health Day is a great opportunity for employers and employees to reflect on the steps they can each take to foster an environment where employees will thrive.
CIPD: Health and wellbeing at work 2023
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) published its annual health and wellbeing at work report in September 2023 (the CIPD Report).
The CIPD Report highlights that there is still work to be done to improve mental health in the workplace. In particular:
- 76% of organisations reported some stress-related absence, with heavy workloads and management styles being quoted as common causes;
- only 30% of organisations provide guidance or training for managers on how to support people with health conditions to stay in work, with only 43% of managers trained to support staff with mental ill health;
- 53% of organisations have a standalone wellbeing strategy; and
- the number agreeing that wellbeing was on the agenda of senior leaders was 69%.
How to tackle stress and poor mental health at work
There is no doubt that poor mental health creates problems for employers and employees. As highlighted in our Acas guidance on managing stress at work article, a survey conducted earlier in 2023 revealed that approximately 33% of workers believe their organisations are not effectively tackling the issue of stress in the workplace.
The mental health charity Mind has produced a wellness action plan, which Acas suggests can help managers talk to their employees about stress.
The CIPD Report also provides various recommendations for employers. In particular, to:
- implement a systematic framework to improve mental health outcomes for people, such as the Mental Health at Work Commitment, a framework of six standards with key actions linking to practical tools and guidance;
- promote and embed flexible working practices (wherever feasible) across the organisation so that people with health and wellbeing issues can flex their hours and responsibilities to suit fluctuating needs;
- work with occupational health specialists, where available, to proactively manage the risks of stress and poor mental health;
- ensure managers are supported and trained to be effective people managers who can look after the health and wellbeing of their teams;
- develop a strategic and holistic approach to ensure health and wellbeing priorities are integrated across the business. A standalone plan is an opportunity to set out an organisation’s aims and communicate the responsibilities of different groups, including a senior-level sponsor, HR, occupational health, managers and employees; and
- ensure line managers are checking in regularly with their team, spotting any early warning signs of poor wellbeing and referring to expert sources of help where needed.
As pointed out by Acas, creating a positive work environment can help reduce work-related stress and, in turn, benefit an organisation by making employees healthier and happier at work, improving performance and making employees more productive as well as making the organisation more attractive to job seekers.
Ideas for employers to celebrate World Mental Health Day include:
- organising workshops or seminars focused on promoting good mental health practices at work. These events could involve expert speakers who can provide insights into common stressors in the workplace and how they can be managed effectively. They could also offer practical advice on how employees can maintain their own mental wellbeing while balancing professional commitments;
- promoting wellness programmes that encourage regular physical activity or mindfulness exercises which have proven benefits for mental health; and
- encouraging open dialogue about mental health amongst colleagues. By facilitating safe spaces where employees feel comfortable discussing their feelings or concerns without fear of judgement or stigma helps build stronger connections within teams, as well as fostering empathy among co-workers.
These measures should not be a one-day phenomenon, but rather form part of a comprehensive year-round effort aimed at creating and sustaining mentally healthy workplaces. By taking these steps forward, employers can help promote healthier minds while helping to build healthier businesses too.