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Why it makes good business sense to take mental health seriously

By Adam Stones

11 May 2015
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The business case for addressing mental health in the workplace is overwhelming: one in four people experience a common mental health condition – such as stress, anxiety or depression – each year and the overall cost of mental health to the UK economy is estimated at £70 billion per year (4.5% of GDP).

Anyone can be affected, regardless of their position or level of seniority. And a pervading culture of stigma and silence means that issues that may otherwise be preventable or easily resolved can escalate into ill health, resulting in suffering and discrimination for thousands of employees every day.

A year ago we worked with Business in the Community (BITC) – with support of Mind and Time to Change – to launch a landmark report ‘Mental Health: We’re Ready to Talk’. Members of BITC’s Wellbeing group pledged to help end the culture of silence. These are more than a dozen leading and influential businesses, such as Mars, P&G, M&S, BT, National Grid, Friends Life, Bupa, Amex and Santander.

A year later and we have worked with these businesses to report their great strides in introducing new programmes, to not only ensure that people can get the help they need but also, crucially, to promote positive practices that prevent issues arising. And these programmes have had demonstrable and impactful results. Senior voices are speaking out, enforcing the message that this is being taken seriously and encouraging all businesses to take action. See the progress here.

I recently attended the launch of the book ‘A Mind for Business’ from Andy Gibson of Mindapples, the organisation that helps everyone take care of their minds like we take care of our bodies. The launch panel discussion was entitled ‘Whose business is wellbeing?’ and it pointed out – for anyone that was in any doubt – that this is not about looking inside people’s minds and exploring innermost secrets, it is about helping people to stay well and make the most of themselves in the work they do.

Mental health issues can arise through a combination of work and non-work related factors. Whatever the cause, it is in the employer’s interest to support employees, to help prevent the condition getting worse, prevent absenteeism or to get someone back to work and full productivity sooner. Further, Mind found 60% of employees would feel more motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work if their employer took action to support mental wellbeing.

It is encouraging to see so many leading voices speaking up and making a real change, and yet some sectors – including those representing high pressured professional businesses – are still unrepresented. If your people are your number one asset, what are you doing to protect that? It’s Mental Health Awareness Week so let’s raise the volume.