Employers encouraged to remove barriers to seeking mental health help at work

Vicky Philips (ScottishPower)

EMPLOYERS across Scotland are being encouraged to take action on employee wellbeing, and address the factors that are preventing employees from speaking up and seeking support when they need it.

See Me, Scotland’s programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination, is calling on senior leaders to show a commitment to improving workplace mental health, invest time and effort into improving their practice, and role model non-stigmatising attitudes and behaviours.

Despite progress in recent years in terms of public awareness of mental health, stigma – negative attitudes or beliefs based on a preconception, misunderstanding or fear of mental health – and fear of discrimination continue to hold workers back from speaking up when they’re struggling in the workplace.

The Scottish Mental Illness Stigma Study, published in 2022 by See Me and the Mental Health Foundation, found that more than three quarters (77%) of people with experience of severe, enduring and complex mental illness have faced stigma at work. Of those who identified employment as an area where stigma had the greatest impact, 71% reported being treated unfairly by employers, supervisors or managers.

To help businesses take action against stigma, and recognise where they can do more to support staff wellbeing, See Me’s workplace team will host a series of webinars and masterclasses in the months ahead.

The free online sessions will showcase how taking action to tackle mental health stigma at work can benefit businesses – by saving money, reducing absenteeism and presenteeism, and creating a better working environment for staff.

Employers across Scotland are seeing the benefit of engaging with See Me to take action against mental health stigma, including ScottishPower.

Vicky Philips, Occupational Health, Hygiene and Wellbeing Director at ScottishPower, said: “Employee wellbeing is hugely important to ScottishPower, and mental wellbeing is a key component of that. Our partnership with See Me has been really influential as part of our journey to improve attitudes and awareness surrounding mental health in the workplace. They’ve worked with us every step of the way and provided independent expert guidance to help keep us on track. We look forward to continuing our partnership with See Me for the rest of our journey, however long it takes.”

The upcoming sessions will cover a range of topics, including understanding mental health at work, the role of managers in supporting staff mental health, and how to have conversations to reduce work-related stress.

Attendees will also get the chance to find out more about the type of support See Me has to offer workplaces, and the free resources on offer to help you take action against stigma as part of the wider See Us movement.

Dr Patty Lozano-Casal, programme manager at See Me, said: “It is estimated that mental health problems currently cost employers in Scotland £2 billion annually, between sick leave and recruitment when staff are no longer able to stay in their role.

“Mental health stigma and discrimination in the workplace often comes from a lack of knowledge. It can damage employees’ confidence, limit their potential and prolong an illness. All of this harms the employer as well as the individual.

“Speaking to your employees about their mental health and creating a culture where people can talk openly will not only get the best out of people, but the different insights people can give can actually help achieve organisational goals.

“Our series of free online events offer an ideal opportunity for line managers, HR professionals and company leaders to find out more about different aspects which can improve wellbeing at work, while removing some of the barriers which are stopping people from speaking up about how they are feeling.”

The next events are:

Thurs 28 Sep, 9.30am-11am Mental health inclusion at work: What does it really mean?

Wed 1 Nov, 9.30am-12.30pm Supporting conversations to reduce work-related stress

Thurs 14 Dec, 9.30am-11am Workplace mental health initiatives: How to get leadership buy-in

Register to attend through the See Me Eventbrite page.

The upcoming learning events are just one part of See Me’s offer for workplaces. Whether you’re looking to start small or make a longer-lasting impact, See Me has a host of tools and resources to help employers make real, lasting change for their staff. Find out more at seemescotland.org/workplace.

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