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Saturday, 7 December

When It’s Good to Talk

Mental health is a difficult subject to discuss, not least in the workplace. Time to Talk Day, which ran last week, is part of a campaign to encourage people to face the issue head on.

Organised by Time to Change, an organisation established to end the stigma and discrimination that people with mental health problems face in England, it has the backing of charities like Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, along with funding from the Department of Health, Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund.

The scale of the problem is daunting, both in personal and economic terms. It is estimated that one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year. Of that number, nine out of 10 people experience stigma and discrimination because of the attitude of others to their condition. According to a recent OECD report, in the UK mental ill health costs £70 billion per year or 4.5% of GDP in lost productivity at work, benefit payments and health care expenditure.

 

Role of employers

Time to Change believes that employers have a role to play in tackling this as better policies and practices in identifying and addressing these conditions help create the space for people to recognise and deal with mental health issues and get back to work. It can start with a few simple steps like talking to staff and building healthy workplaces.

“We know that there are major challenges when it comes to mental health and work and it affects government, businesses and ultimately individuals – without question more needs to be done and it starts with creating the space to have the conversations,” explained Neal Stone, Policy and Standards Director, British Safety Council which gave its backing to last week’s campaign. “The Time to Talk Day is an important campaign to get this conversation going.”

Apart from a video which it made with the collaboration of Mind and the Centre for Mental Health, BSC has made one of its full colour posters available for free download during February. Don’t Let Stress Be Your World encourages workers to talk to their managers and colleagues about any stress they may be suffering and there are additional posters on dealing with and talking about personal stress and ending the stigma about mental health issues.

Time to Change has a programme of activities and schemes that can be found on its website – www.time-to-change.org.uk – including The Time to Change Employer Pledge that indicates to employees, service users and the public that an organisation wants to take action to tackle the stigma and discrimination around mental health, focusing on the workplace in particular.

The pledge is not a quality mark, accreditation or endorsement. Employers do not have to pass a test or submit a lengthy application. Instead, each pledge commitment is backed by an organisation-specific action plan, detailing the tangible activity they will deliver to demonstrate your commitment. Currently there are 350 employers involved in the scheme.

Picture: Time to Change organised a one-day campaign last week but runs a programme of events and schemes like its Time to Change Employer Pledge

Article written by Cathryn Ellis

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