Mental Health Awareness Week is now drawing to a close. I’ve been delighted to hear about the excellent departmental activities that have been taking place this week.
Examples include the Crown Prosecution Service hosting “mindfulness” lunch and learn sessions; and HMRC signposting practical sources of mental health support and drop-in mental health cafés. I know that other departments have organised mental health awareness campaigns and a number of colleagues have been generous in sharing their personal experiences and insights.
A personal and business issue
I want to thank everyone for getting involved in raising awareness of this important issue. Mental health is just as important as physical health. The only difference is that it cannot always be seen. 34% of Civil Service long-term sickness absence is attributable to mental health problems. So this is not just a personal issue for the staff affected, but also a business issue for all departments.
Going forward, we can all take small steps to create a more open and supportive working environment. If you go on your intranet site, you should find links to Occupational Health and to the website run by your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) provider.
Occupational Health is there to provide advice to managers and employees to help support people back to work from sick leave. Anyone can access the EAP website for advice on a wide range of topics, such as divorce and bereavement, access to counselling, and often other help, including online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Managers have a crucial role in supporting the well-being of their staff, and I encourage you to consider how best to use HR policies, such as flexible working, to support employees and promote engagement. We should all role-model positive behaviours and be mindful of our own well-being and work/life balance.
Finally, I’d like to share some short practical tips with you on how to maintain your own mental well-being in the workplace:
- speak to someone you feel comfortable with, whenever you have any concerns
- talk to your manager as early as possible if your mental health is being affected by something in the workplace
- learn how departmental support such as Employee Assistance Programmes can help
- identify and seek out the support available both in the workplace and outside.
Let’s make mental health awareness part of our approach to work and our wider lives during every week in 2016. In the last People Survey, the results showed 65% of Civil Service staff were satisfied with their lives. Let’s try and increase those numbers in the year ahead.
Follow Rupert McNeil on Twitter: @CivilServiceCPO