How mental health champions can improve workplace wellbeing

It is no secret that the workplace has unfortunately been a great contributor to mental health difficulties for many people. In 2019, HSE reported that stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 54% of all working days lost due to ill health. The causes of work-related stress are consistent over the years with the workload, lack of managerial support and organisational change being the primary causative factors. Within this blog, we will discuss the importance of having a mental health champion within your workplace and the benefits that come with having one.

Workplace difficulties can be greatly helped by talking about the issues. However, the idea of talking to your manager about mental health can be very intimidating or unwelcome. A 2017 poll by the charity Time to Change asked respondents to select from a list of issues they felt they could discuss at work; only 13% selected mental illness, whilst 30% felt comfortable discussing a relationship break-up and 26% about money problems.

The good news is that implementing certain measures into the workplace can significantly improve wellbeing. An excellent first step to improve wellbeing in your organisation is to introduce a Mental Health Champion.

What is a Mental Health Champion?

A Mental Health Champion is an employee or team who are trained to offer help and support to colleagues and to promote mental health awareness. We know that 1 in 4 people will encounter a mental health difficulty at some point, and this will affect all aspects of our life, including work. As we spend so much of our time at work, it is crucial that we have people in our workplace who we feel comfortable talking to about our wellbeing. Sometimes it is easier to talk to an understanding peer about stressful or traumatic experiences than to a professional and this can be an invaluable first step to seeking expert psychological help at a later stage if needed.

CiC works with your organisation to develop a robust programme; including advertising for volunteers, screening, interviewing and training applicants and continued management and supervision by our expert clinicians. This enables staff across your organisation to support each other, thus enhancing performance, resilience and wellbeing at all levels.

How does this improve wellbeing?

The benefits of trained and supervised peer support programmes are well documented and have become firmly embedded across all sectors. There are a number of ways in which having a Mental Health Champion programme in place improves wellbeing in the workplace.

  • Improving wellbeing in the workplace. By investing in and implementing a Mental Health Champion programme, you are showing your employees that wellbeing is a priority on your agenda. It also shows that you understand that speaking directly to management about mental health can be difficult, and so you have implemented a more accessible option. This can go a long way to creating a positive, trustful relationship between employer/organisation and employee as you encourage them to look after themselves and provide them with tools to do so.
  • A safe place to talk. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of speaking to a counsellor, and not everyone needs this. Sometimes you just need a listening ear or a place to safely vent what is on your mind. Employees also often report not knowing who to talk to about mental health at work. Many fear judgement, harsh treatment or even dismissal. This can add to anxieties and prevent people from seeking support. With a Mental Health Champion in place, this doubt is removed and therefore helps individuals get the support they need quickly.
  • Additional professional support. Whilst not everyone will need further psychological support, some inevitably will. The Mental Health Champion will be trained in recognising any warning signs relating to mental health and will be able to guide those who do need further support. Simply having someone help you with this process can make all the difference as it can be very daunting seeking counselling alone. An EAP is a great accompanying tool to a Mental Health Champion, as you have access to counselling set up for the individual to utilise. The initial conversation with the Champion is likely to make the individual feel much more comfortable taking this step.
  • Reducing the stigma around mental health. A Mental Health Champion creates the opportunity for wellbeing and mental health to become part of casual conversation in the workplace, rather than something that is shied away from. How many times have we known people to – or perhaps have ourselves – feigned a headache, or a cold, when we were actually feeling anxious or depressed? This is out of fear of a negative response. Having regular conversations, hosting events, running campaigns, reviewing policies and so forth, sends a clear message that mental health is important and should be treated like any other aspect of our health. This will encourage employees to speak freely and without fear of judgement.
  • A preventative approach to mental health. Whilst reactive support during a crisis is very important, programmes such as Mental Health Champions take a proactive approach to wellbeing in the workplace, with the aim to prevent such crises in the first place. A proactive response allows for potential areas of concern to be eradicated before they can develop, creating a more positive, harmonious working environment.

A Mental Health Champion programme positively impacts many areas of an organisation and is an excellent tool for improving wellbeing in the workplace. If you would like to learn more about CiC’s Mental Health Champion programme, click here.