This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Mental Health Foundation for creating this week in 2001. I am sure those who initiated it could only dream the level of activity and awareness that it would generate.
And it is a good job the week does exist because our recent poll of over 2,000 employees shows just how much work needs to be done to ensure equality between mental and physical health.
- 9 out of 10 employees would not talk about self-harm or eating disorders
- Employees find it easier to talk about diarrhoea than depression
- Employees find it three times easier to talk about physical ailments than mental ill health.
This is not new. We have known for a long time that stigma and fear of judgement impacts people’s ability to talk about mental health at work. The economic and human cost of this is stark.
That is why I am delighted Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England is again working with mental health campaigner Natasha Devon MBE and Bauer Media to launch the ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ Workplace Manifesto.
This Manifesto calls on business leaders to stand up and be counted and make an ongoing commitment to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. It asks employers to recognise the need to prioritise mental health, build diverse and inclusive workplaces and treat mental and physical health equally. And it seeks their commitment to turning mental health awareness into positive action aligned with the ‘core standards’ for a mentally healthy workplace as set out in the ‘Thriving at Work’ report.
By signing up, organisations will be highlighting their support for a mentally healthier working world – the kind of world we all want to live in. As adults we spend at least a 1/3 of our lives at work and it is therefore imperative that businesses make mental health a priority in the Boardroom that translates into organisation-wide action.
As a fairly young social enterprise, set up with the purpose of improving the mental health of the nation, MHFA England is built on a tradition of supporting employee mental health. Clearly there is always more that we can all do.
I am delighted that so many mental health organisations including Mind, Samaritans and the Mental Health Foundation have already signed up to the Manifesto. As advocates, champions and campaigners for radical culture change, we must walk the talk and lead the charge for equity between physical and mental health in what we do, as well as what we say.
Alongside the CBI, lots of businesses have already signed up to the Manifesto too. This Mental Health Awareness Week, I am urging employers, across all sectors, and of all sizes, to join with business leaders, mental health organisations and MPs in signing up to support the ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ Workplace Manifesto.
Together we can make mental health a priority in every workplace across the country. The financial and human cost of not doing so is simply too high not to.
If you're a CBI member, find out the other practical steps your peers are taking to make mental health a priority in their business in My CBI's Ideas Forum.