https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2018/08/15/positive-principles-for-mental-wellbeing/

Positive principles for mental wellbeing

Head and shoulders shot of Rupert McNeil
Rupert McNeil, Civil Service Chief People Officer

Supporting the mental health of Civil Service employees is hugely important to us, and is a key part of our ambition to be the UK's most inclusive employer by 2020.

In the Civil Service, talking about mental health is part of the culture we are striving to create. In 2016, at Civil Service Live, we heard from senior civil servants (SCS) sharing their personal mental health experiences. Flash forward to 2018 and we have recently held the first Civil Service Mental Health Conference. We are well on the way to breaking down the stigma and creating a truly inclusive environment in which we can all thrive. In July, I attended the work, health, and disability public sector summit and was proud that we were able to share best practice from the Civil Service as well as learn from others.

Man on feet speaking, with another seated.
Civil Service Disability Champion Philip Rutnam speaking at the Mental Health Conference, with Health and Wellbeing Champion Jonathan Jones (left, seated)

Mental wellbeing

We have a range of support available for staff, including 2,200 Mental Health First Aiders (or equivalent) and a newly launched mental health guide for managers*.

With this support in place, we are now also focusing on ‘mental wellbeing’, and last year I had the privilege of meeting Professor Martin Seligman, PERMA model of wellbeing. This model considers that the relationships and interactions we have with each other at work, and the goals, meaning and recognition we get from our roles, are critical to our performance at work. This all sounds simple. However, we can all be guilty of focusing on the task at hand rather than the people working around us.

The Wellbeing Confident Leaders training, being delivered across the Civil Service for all leaders, starting with the SCS, centres on the PERMA principles. As employees and as managers we can all start to think about bringing this positive psychology to the workplace.

Positive Emotions

Take time to share what we appreciate about each other, e.g. a colleague’s help on a project. People who experience positive emotions are more creative, innovative and better at handling stress.

Engagement

Create a work environment where you can be ‘in the zone’ as much as possible.

Relationships

Spend time getting to know the people you work with, by having a team lunch, celebrating birthdays and noticing and offering support when colleagues are having a hard time.

Meaning

Knowing the meaningful purpose of your role, so that we all know how we are contributing to the aims of the department and to the wider benefit of society.

Accomplishments

Take the time to celebrate small achievements and don’t underestimate the value of ‘thank you’, recognising that receiving praise and feedback is important and validates self-worth.

How I plan to look after my own mental wellbeing?

With the summer holidays well and truly upon us, this is as good a time as any to put some emphasis on our own mental wellbeing and possibly unplug from the ‘switched on’ culture. When the sun is out, it’s easier to be active, eat healthier and take a break from the everyday routine.

As I’ll be out of the country in my wife’s home state of Kentucky, I’ll have to do without my mailbox (don’t forget that HMG IT kit needs to stay in the UK when you’re on holiday). So I will be cycling, reading and spending time with my family - some of my favourite ways to decompress.

Logo for the cross-government mental health network*Mental Health: A Guide for Managers was developed in collaboration with the Cross Government Mental Health Network. The guide provides advice and guidance to managers when supporting employee mental health. Please refer to your departmental staff networks and HR teams for more information.

75 comments

  1. Comment by Kara Claxton posted on

    Rupert

    It is encouraging to read this blog and see the senior civil service attention given to Mental Health. The piece above on improving the psychology of the work place particularly insightful and provides a reminder of the role that I as a leader need to play. Mental Health First Aid training is also a great step forward, for me this is something that all managers need within their management tool kit, not just a good to have.

    I am keen to see this effectively filtered down to the ground level of the civil service. The challenges faced, particularly within the operation are extremely complex and managers are not currently equipped to deal with the mental health issues placed in front of them. The HR support is also lacking in these complex and sensitive areas.

    I would very much welcome the opportunity to discuss the mental health challenges we face within the operational environment to get involved and help inform governments future approach to equipping staff with the right tools to deal with the situations before them.

    Kara Claxton
    G6 Border Force

    • Replies to Kara Claxton>

      Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

      Hi Kara,

      Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. We’re pleased you find the concept of positive psychology useful for your role as a manager. It would be great to hear your thoughts on what more we can all do. You might wish to contact Paul Morrison, Health and Wellbeing Champion for the Home Office to see how you can get involved.

      Thanks again,

      Health and Wellbeing Team.

  2. Comment by Mark posted on

    It's a welcome initiative, but why is the Civil Service so adverse to publishing the extent of stress and negative mental health? Is the lack of transparency a barrier to further understanding?

    • Replies to Mark>

      Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

      Hi Mark,

      Thank you for your comment. The Civil Service measures sickness absence data and People Survey results, which includes measures on wellbeing, and these are published on GOV.UK. We have also created a Civil Service Health and Wellbeing Dashboard that looks at a range of measures, including stress, to help departments track their progress and understand areas for improvement. Your HR department will be able to tell you where the People Survey results are published for your department.

      Health & Wellbeing Team

  3. Comment by Martin posted on

    There's also the need to look at the route causes. For example the HR changes this year adversely affect thousands of civil servants. It affected receipt of pay, pension, contract, starts and any other number of things that people rely on to live and plan their day-to-day lives. There was very little leadership, transparency, responsibility or ownership form CS Resourcing and that just undermines what is an important message. Imagine being one of those thousands of Civil Servants not knowing if you're going to get paid that month, imagine what that does to your well being.

    • Replies to Martin>

      Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

      Hi Martin,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. We are aware that a small number of civil servants did experience some issues and completely appreciate that this will have been stressful for those affected. Where issues arose, departments and central functions took action to rectify this as quickly as possible. If you have any concerns relating to this please do speak to your local HR contact.

      Health & Wellbeing Team

  4. Comment by mohsen posted on

    It's a welcome initiative, but why is the Civil Service so adverse to publishing the extent of stress and negative mental health? Is the lack of transparency a barrier to further understanding?

    • Replies to mohsen>

      Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

      Hi Mohsen,

      Thank you for your comment. The Civil Service measures sickness absence data and People Survey results, which includes measures on wellbeing, and these are published on GOV.UK. Your HR department will be able to tell you where the People Survey results are published for your department.

      Health & Wellbeing Team

  5. Comment by Bernice Johnson MBE posted on

    After a long and what I consider successful career in the civil service I was bullied at work and subsequently suffered a full breakdown and was forced to leave work after 34 years unblemished service!

    I therefore read with a certain amount of scepticism about the levels of support within the civil service

  6. Comment by Nigel posted on

    It’s unfortunate that last year I was off work with mental health issues and was told I would receive a written warning because of my time away from work.
    Given my issues were around anxiety and panic attack’s the threat of written warning does not help 😔

    • Replies to Nigel>

      Comment by David posted on

      Agree 100% with this. I'm currently faced with a similar situation with a member of my staff, who has breached 'trigger points' (which I've already extended) due to absence with OCD and anxiety. So I'm faced with having to issue a formal warning, which I know will be counter-productive in terms of the officer's health.

      • Replies to David>

        Comment by David Garnett posted on

        This is an example of how bureaucracy can make the Civil Service such a wretched employer. We should be more empowered to use our discretion when applying such 'rules' as these.

      • Replies to David>

        Comment by Kim posted on

        I was also given a formal written warning for being off sick with anxiety and depression despite telling my previous manager that I was struggling. The current system does not offer any support and is debilitating when you are off with mental health issues.

      • Replies to David>

        Comment by Nikki posted on

        I agree warnings will only make issues worse. It seems idiosyncratic mangers have to issue these warnings when employing diversely is always in the media (there are also local government projects actively supporting people with mental health issues back into the work place). People should be supported through their times of need to ensure they can maintain their employment and continue to be productive.

        • Replies to Nikki>

          Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

          Hi Nikki,

          Thank you for taking the time to comment. We agree it is really important for the mental health of employees to be supported. As mentioned above, managers have discretion to decide on what actions to take once an employee's sickness absence reaches or exceeds the agreed trigger points. Managers and employees are encouraged to work together to determine the most appropriate support. There is a range of support and resources available via departmental HR contacts and intranets as well as via the Civil Service Learning Portal.

          Health & Wellbeing Team

      • Replies to David>

        Comment by James posted on

        'Having to issue' . Where is it stated that you 'have' to issue one? Would it not be more accurate to say you have the choice of whether to issue one? And perhaps for some reason you are feeling as though that is the choice you are going to make? If the reason includes an element of feeling pressured into issuing one then perhaps you could state this and open up a conversation as to why this is.

        My understanding of it is that you can choose to support it and not issue a warning, is that not correct?

        • Replies to James>

          Comment by Nikki posted on

          I used the term have to issue as from what I was told this was the case when triggers are reached (I am not a manager) for certain lengths of time off due to sickness. I am pleased to hear that warnings are a choice if that is the case. This would indicate perhaps some peoples understanding of mental health issues are still limited. My past role involved supporting people with severe mental health issues/self harm. I am passionate about equality with regards to physical and mental well being and would be more than happy to be involved in raising more awareness.

      • Replies to David>

        Comment by Deb posted on

        I agree 100% too! A work colleague who's been off with WORK related stress and anxiety breached trigger points and HR gave the option of returning to work, resigning or employment being terminated - I heard it with my own ears! A civil servant with more than 25 years service and previously an impeccable attendance record.

      • Replies to David>

        Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

        Hi David,

        Thank you for your comment. The Civil Service Attendance Management policy does give managers the discretion to decide on what actions to take once an employee's sickness absence reaches or exceeds the agreed trigger points. It also encourages the manager and employee to work together to determine what support is most appropriate. There is a range of support and resources available that you and your employee might find useful. Please do speak to your local HR contact for more information and support.

        Health & Wellbeing Team

    • Replies to Nigel>

      Comment by Philip posted on

      Agreed - discipline procedures are incompatible with genuine health problems, and there should be recognition and discretion applied - which sadly seems to generally not be done, despite all the window-dressing and glossy Well Being advertising.

    • Replies to Nigel>

      Comment by Audene posted on

      I did end up taking time off work due to mental health issues, I then hit the 30 day sickness target and ended up with a sick warning. I dont believe this is good enough at all and knowing you are going to be put on a warning only adds to your sypmtoms and does not encourage you to return to work, much more needs to be done

    • Replies to Nigel>

      Comment by Nikki posted on

      I agree, trigger points and warnings should not be in place for genuine health issues. I also wonder if the people in charge of making policy surrounding mental health awareness and quashing stigma really have experience of what it is like to live with mental health issues. I am a mental health first aider, a qualification I gained in my previous job in mental health, however I have never been asked to utilise this for my office.

    • Replies to Nigel>

      Comment by Gill posted on

      I agree Nigel and I have also been off for the last 3 months with anxiety and panic attacks and felt like I had been disgarded and alone. I hope you feel better soon as it is an horrible illness to have

    • Replies to Nigel>

      Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

      Hi Nigel,

      Thank you for taking the time to your comment. I am really sorry to hear you have had a difficult time. You might find it helpful to speak to someone in your local HR team who can ensure that you are being appropriately supported. You might also wish to connect with the Cross Government Mental Health Network.

      Wishing you all the best.

      Health & Wellbeing Team

  7. Comment by Kevin posted on

    Whilst the civil Service pays lip service to the management of mental health, perhaps it should pay more attention to the causes of work related stress. Including, but not limited to, unsustainable work demands due to limited resources.

    • Replies to Kevin>

      Comment by Philip posted on

      Agreed - when targets and cases are set at levels which do not allow the constant injunction to provide a Brilliant, excellent customer service, cleansing each case, once and done, get it right first time - which is a really good aim. Excess pressure means actions will not be fully actioned, updates will not be fully read and taken on board, short cuts will be taken, driving behaviours contrary to the demand for excellence. This will impact on staff morale and mental health, which does not seem to be recognised, despite all the window-dressing and glossy Well Being advertising (as per health issues above).

  8. Comment by G posted on

    I was off for nearly 7weeks due to Depression & Anxiety & I was subjected to many phone calls meetings & DID receive a warning letter...

  9. Comment by Tracey posted on

    The culture will never change while people live in fear of taking time off to recover. The civil service needs to change to a more positive and supportive attendance management policy which allows people to take time off for selfcare without the fear of a warning or losing their job. Fear causes stress, which in turn can worsen an existing mental health condition.

    • Replies to Tracey>

      Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

      Hi Tracey,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. As mentioned above, managers have discretion to decide on what actions to take once an employee's sickness absence reaches or exceeds the agreed trigger points. Absence should always be managed on a case-by-case basis, with managers using their discretion as appropriate, and with the manager and employee working together to identify appropriate support.

      Health & Wellbeing Team

  10. Comment by Anji Whitworth posted on

    Is it possible for the Civil Service to consider allowing employees to undertake courses in techniques to deal with some psychological issues. ie CBT Techniques?

    • Replies to Anji Whitworth>

      Comment by Anne Law posted on

      After reading all the comments - it is sad to see there are no replies to date........

      But I certainly think that your suggestion Anji would indicate the real commitment from the department to help improve the situation for
      those living with mental health problems - CBT techniques could be hugely beneficial to all. Good idea.

      • Replies to Anne Law>

        Comment by Angie posted on

        CBT training is good - I've done the Online Course, which was supported by a consultant once a week. Although I've completed this training, I still suffer mental anxieties, but not to the extent it was 3 years ago.

        • Replies to Angie>

          Comment by Roy posted on

          I would point out that supporting people in the workplace, with the use of Mental Health First Aiders, and engaging therapeutically are 2 very different things. I have a university degree in Counselling and Psychotherapy and still volunteer outside of work. I am registered with the BACP, fully insured and have regular supervision to ensure that I’m working ethically, yet I wouldn’t try to ‘counsel’ a colleague because that’s not how it works. There is no one size fits all for mental health issues and we are civil servants not mental health practitioners. Mental health intervention should be left to experts and the best we can do is support people through their difficulties and signpost them to further help. I find it terrifying at the suggestion of doing ‘online’ courses in therapeutic practice with the purpose of engaging with colleagues with mental health problems and it shows a great lack of understanding of both the problem and how to enact a solution.

      • Replies to Anne Law>

        Comment by Roy posted on

        I’d be very interest to know where the information comes from as regards CBT being hugely beneficial to all? The clinical research that I’m aware of, and I’m by no means an expert, suggests that it is no more effective than most other mainstream therapeutic interventions and in fact is less effective than some other therapeutic intervention over time…

    • Replies to Anji Whitworth>

      Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

      Hi Anji,

      Thank you for your comment. The Civil Service, through departmental Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), or equivalent, provides access for all employees to a confidential service offering advice, counselling (including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - CBT), support and signposting about a range of mental health and wider wellbeing issues. Details of departmental EAP services can be found on intranet sites.

      Health & Wellbeing Team

  11. Comment by Tracey posted on

    If the management took the time to listen to this staff maybe that would help some people with their mental health. Instead of brushing Mental Health under the carpet. It's all very well having these initiatives information on the intranet when it is never adhered to. I never get asked how I'm feeling I have a kit once a week with regards to my mental health but that hasn't happened for many many years. One gets to the point where you think it is a matter no one listens anyway.

  12. Comment by Pete posted on

    This all sounds good but if you have a mental health problem and end up having to take time off or your work suffers then you can easily end up on restoring efficiency. This then increases the stress and anxiety so it is vicious circle. Line Managers no longer have any flexibility to help their staff with mental health problems without imposing a penalty on them for being ill. Until this changes then the words and training will mean very little.

  13. Comment by Alison posted on

    I like, Nigel, was unfortunate enough to be off work with mental health issues, certificated by the GP. This resulted in a written warning, at the end of a phased return, due to two absences, relating to mental health. So very supportive! This is all just lip service, to tick the relevant box.

  14. Comment by Beverley Booth posted on

    It is very difficult to spend time getting to know the people you work with when your team is spread all over the country. My team rarely see each other face to face; we do Lync every day and have a great rapport, but it is still difficult to know exactly how a person may be feeling when you can't actually see them. This makes it nigh on impossible to give support if a colleague is having a hard time.

  15. Comment by John posted on

    I really appreciated this article and I will be introducing a PERMA style exercise as a "health of the team" check.
    However, I am extremely disappointed that nobody has taken the time to respond to the comments people have posted above.
    This would have been a very real sign that the owners of this article know how to change the issues people with mental health conditions are suffering in the workplace i.e. from the bottom up and not top down.

  16. Comment by Mike posted on

    I feel although we are making strides in the right direction, there is still so much to do. Within the past 12 months I have been bullied, yet it was me that was moved jobs. This had an adverse reaction to my confidence, anxiety and ultimately depression. The latter made me go off sick for 3 months. Then when you come back there is an utter lack of sympathy from management. Then the 'stress reduction plan.' This adds to the situation totally. To make people better after these type of symptoms I agree that in order with to deal with some psychological issues some kind of support mechanism should be in place as support away from the management chain.

  17. Comment by R Cooney posted on

    I too was off last year with work related stress due to team issues. These are ongoing so I cannot comment further on that, however, I agree the threat of warnings and possible job loss due to non attendance for work related stress does not help the situation.
    The Civil Service should take into account the reasons for non attendance and treat sufferers of anxiety/work related stress etc with a bit of empathy.

  18. Comment by Phil Allen posted on

    Unfortunately my own experience within the civil service and more specifically HMRC does not reflect the positive messages within this article.
    I have been in the civil service for about 15 yrs and for the first time, in the last year, my home life has been a real genuine challenge.
    I have asked for a little understanding and help but none was forth coming.

    It would very much appear to me, based on a tangible situation where there are added stressors and impacts on my mental health, the civil service isn't prepare to back up the pink and fluffy words and guidelines.

    Sadly the propaganda, though focussed on a subject so long over looked, seems just that. No action, only words. And that is a genuine shame.

    Headed in the right direction though I feel. Cracking that we are starting to deal with such a tricky and previously misunderstood subject.

    With luck this will have a great impact on the civil service as a whole.

  19. Comment by Rebecca Mackay posted on

    To fit in with the Mental First Aid theme, Defence Joint Medical Group (Mental Health Team) developed a quick reference Mental Wellbeing First Aid Box card.

    Provides a sliding scale of symptoms of mental ill health/wellbeing and the actions individuals can take to help on side one. On side 2 contact details for local/national support agencies, i.e. Staff Welfare, Samaritans. These are fully editable to reflect the offer to other localities/Departments.

    Happy to share

    Becky

    • Replies to Rebecca Mackay>

      Comment by Helen Ogilvy posted on

      Hi Becky,

      I'd love to see the mental health first aid box card you have developed. Please could you share it with me?

      Helen

      • Replies to Helen Ogilvy>

        Comment by Jo Moore posted on

        Hi Becky
        Me too. I spent ages today looking for a contact number or email address for the team so I could looking into ordering some or getting the template. Thanks

    • Replies to Rebecca Mackay>

      Comment by Diane Basson posted on

      I would like a copy too please

    • Replies to Rebecca Mackay>

      Comment by laura r posted on

      I'd like a copy too please!

    • Replies to Rebecca Mackay>

      Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

      Hi Rebecca,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. The Mental Wellbeing First Aid Box card sounds great, we would really appreciate it if you could share this with us.

      Health & Wellbeing Team

  20. Comment by Alan McHugh posted on

    On a practical basis is there not now a valid case that every office should have a mental health first aider.

    • Replies to Alan McHugh>

      Comment by Pete posted on

      Agree this is worthwhile but unless there is flexibility built in for the line manager then it will amount to very little.

    • Replies to Alan McHugh>

      Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

      Hi Alan,

      Thank you for your comment. Across the Civil Service we now have over 2,200 Mental Health First Aiders (or equivalent) within departments, and we are rolling out training to develop Wellbeing Confident Leaders. You can read more in Jonathan Jones' recent blog.

      Health & Wellbeing Team

  21. Comment by Rosemary posted on

    I agree with the previous statements. Being fearful of being off sick with mental health issues does absolutely nothing but make matters worse. How can we get better with the fear of losing our jobs hanging over us?

  22. Comment by Mr Grumpy posted on

    There may be a valid case but with the shortage of staff in my department it would just be another burden on some poor person which would probably increase the amount of pressure they are already under.
    Sad to say but a decent wage rise in line with living costs, a return to correct staffing levels and staff might not have as many mental health problems. This would mean less staff taking time of sick with mental health problems and everyone would be a winner.
    Decreasing the number of roles a person has is sometimes the simpler and easier solution rather that creating yet another role for somebody to take on. LESS is MORE?

  23. Comment by Jo posted on

    I had the same issues when I was off with CFS and was threatened with what I am repeatedly told is a "tool to help us get back to work". The only thing it did was scare me, make me worse and force me to return before I was fit and well making me worse in the long run

  24. Comment by SDT posted on

    Whilst it is good that there is talk around this matter it does in many respects appear to only be lip service being provided. People who are suffering mental health issues such as stress related issues and anxiety are given formal warnings for illness which exacerbates the issues and in one case a person seriously suffering stress issues was fired because they felt they had to return to work before far before they had recovered and then reacted badly to management mishandling of their condition when they pushed them to do work they were mentally unable to face at that time.

  25. Comment by Deborah posted on

    "Create a work environment where you can be ‘in the zone’ as much as possible." When you're in an open plan office, and the actual space/desk an individual is allocated seems to be shrinking smaller and smaller as time goes on, this is almost impossible!! Very difficult to concentrate with so many people in close proximity, people on the phone, shouting to each other over desks! For me, this causes work related stress! Because I unable to concentrate properly on my work, I feel I'm less productive - with the same amount of work/deadlines my work builds up which then increases my stress! Whoever thought open plan offices were a good thing?!

  26. Comment by Helen posted on

    Employee's are frightened to discuss their mental health issues with managers as managers have little or no understanding in regards to MH. Their support is very limited and warnings area issued rather than meaningful discussion and praise. We all have our limits and employees are scared to raise their problems for fear of being seen as incompetent and viewed as a liability.

    • Replies to Helen>

      Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

      Hi Helen,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m sorry to hear you feel employees are scared to raise their mental health issues. As mentioned in the blog, Mental Health: A guide for managers provides advice and guidance to managers when supporting employee mental health. Please refer to your departmental staff networks and HR teams for more information. The Civil Service are also rolling out training to develop Wellbeing Confident Leaders - which you can read more about in Jonathan Jones' recent blog.

      Wishing you all the best,

      Health & Wellbeing Team

  27. Comment by Mike Bedford - Head of Engagement, L&D, Wellbeing (IICSA) posted on

    Can anyone tell me who I can talk to about Mental Health First Aider training please? Thank you

  28. Comment by Rupert Bobrowicz posted on

    I'm all for well being at work, even near the end of my career, this article does lay foundations upon which to build(hopefully a happier office environment) and a positive way forward. There are still many lessons to be learnt and obstacles to overcome, but with one purpose, shared interest, we are still all in this together. Let's hope for further improvements so that all can contribute to getting the best out of their working life.

  29. Comment by Steve posted on

    This is a very important issue that needs to feed into day to day behaviours, rather than be seen as a separate issue. For example we have a new director who is very keen on statistical data. The problem is they see a 5 on the weekly return but wanted to see 6, unfortunately they have no understanding of the effort or resources required for that 5 to be a 6, and no understanding of the effort required to deliver the 5 they have. The response, by the time it’s relayed to the coal face, is always negative. We are not working hard enough, or smart enough, and we need to recover. This just applies a constant pressure on a workforce who are having to work around problems with instructions, processes and IT systems. If we are serious about the PERMA principles we need to move away from the ‘managing by numbers’ approach and try to develop some genuine understanding of the working environment and the value of the tasks that are cleared.

  30. Comment by Jay posted on

    I was once a work coach & I found the work too much. Too much pressure - it got to the point I was off work with 'work related stress' ( sick note issued by G.P. Two weeks off. First time that had happened in 28 years plus of working in the civil service. On my return things did not change. Eventually - after about a year - I resigned ( down graded ) - took a pay cut - returned to admin staff. For me this was my only option - short of resigning completely. Two years have gone by since my two weeks off work. I don't believe I have had time off since then. At the end of the day I had to look after me. The employer wasn't going to.

    • Replies to Jay>

      Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

      Hi Jay,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I am really sorry to hear you had a difficult time in your previous role. You might find it helpful to speak to someone in your local HR team who can ensure that you are being appropriately supported in your current role. You might also wish to connect with the Cross Government Mental Health Network.

      Wishing you all the best,

      Health & Wellbeing Team

  31. Comment by Jo posted on

    I was off with mental illness related issues and was put on formal process. I was told they HAD to do it and again when I hit my trigger points. It made me sicker and made me return to work before I was ready. I was told it was out of my line managers hands they had no choice.

    • Replies to Jo>

      Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

      Hi Jo,

      Thank you for your comment. I am really sorry to hear you had a difficult time and felt you had to return to work before you were ready. As mentioned above, absence should always be managed on a case-by-case basis, with managers using their discretion as appropriate, and with the manager and employee working together to identify appropriate support. You might find it helpful to speak to someone in your local HR team who can ensure that you are being appropriately supported in your current role.

      Wishing you all the best,

      Health & Wellbeing Team

  32. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    I really pleased to hear of this first Civil Service Mental Health Conference and that it was held at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Main Building in London.

    I have to say that I have been totally amazed at the way in which we have seen over the past four years ago a significant change in the way that the topic on Mental Health is being discussed at all levels with the Civil Service. In particular the work that has been done to increase the level of awareness and understand about Mental Health actually means and the fact that colleagues feel empowered to talk openly about how they are truly feeling.

    From my involvement with mental health and Wellbeing, I have been surprised at the level of inconsistency that exists between several Whitehall Departments. Especially with regards to the support provided to staff both internally and from the EAP providers that have been put into place.

    In a few instances, I am also aware that both the Line Manager and the HR Departments have rather than look to implement reasonable adjustments simply stuck their head in the sand and left the Officer to try an overcome the challenges on their own!

    So I really do hope that Conferences like this will bring about significant change both in terms of attitude and the levels of support that is given to ALL Staff in ALL Departments.

  33. Comment by Alison posted on

    This all sounds admirable and positive. However, the reality from the coal face is that it is unlikely to have any effect on those of us, out in the sticks, with very few CS colleagues around us.......

    My husband retired/was made redundant (whatever it was) after 2 years of hell (for both of us). His Line Management didn't have a clue what to do when he returned to work. His return to work interview turned into an open forum with his colleagues and then some bright spark decided to audit all of his travel claims going back years! (Yes, really).

    The CS have a very long way to go before any of this will have any effect for those of us at the coal face and the comments above about workloads, roles and pay are all very true. Unfortunately, you may be able to change processes and policy but you cannot create policy to make managers more understanding or compassionate. That needs to be lead from the front!

  34. Comment by Alli posted on

    "Relationships - Spend time getting to know the people you work with, by having a team lunch, celebrating birthdays and noticing and offering support when colleagues are having a hard time."

    This is tricky when hot desking is in place - no time to get to know your colleagues or create friendships. If you are a quiet person it can be a long, lonely day.

  35. Comment by Steve posted on

    It is encouraging that initiatives such as these now exist at top level, and that employee mental health/well being is (finally) being taken seriously in the Civil Service. I have 'on the ground' experience of long-term sickness related to serious mental health conditions within the Civil Service. Could you please let me know who I can contact, at senior level, in order to share my experiences (both good and bad) of related causes, how the situation was handled, what measures were taken and lessons learned for future improvement. Many thanks.

    • Replies to Steve>

      Comment by Health & Wellbeing Team, CS Employee Policy posted on

      Hi Steve,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and for offering to share your experience. We really value open and honest conversations around mental ill health and would appreciate hearing your perspective. We will be in touch.

      Health & Wellbeing Team

  36. Comment by GW posted on

    "People who experience positive emotions are more creative, innovative and better at handling stress."
    As somebody with an arts background and a continuing keen interest in the arts, can I just highlight what a load of codswallop that statement is? Perhaps we should tell the Tate that they should take down the Seagram Murals because Mark Rothko didn't experience positive emotions? How about that statue of Churchill in Parliament Square? His "black dogs" couldn't really be regarded as positive, could they.
    I appreciate that the statement is preceded with a suggestion that you should always recognise and appreciate the contributions others make to your work - or even just to making your day a little more pleasant. That's excellent, admirable and often appreciated.
    But there is a definite bias towards positivity in my department and others, I'm sure. There is quite strong pressure not to appear "negative" or "cynical" about things. This can have a detrimental effect on the output of the whole department, quite apart from the psychological impact of such pressure on the naturally more cynical and depressive members of staff. We are constantly being asked to be alert for bias in our work and the Civil Service has a serious problem with confirmation bias, defined by Wikipedia as, "the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms one's pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses."
    How many times has a policy or change of procedure been imposed from on high that people at lower grades have looked at and been able to point out where and how it will not work, only to be overruled or ignored on the spurious grounds that they are being "negative" or "cynical"? Then how many times has that change run into exactly the problems that these same ignored staff pointed out many months before?
    The Civil Service NEEDS people who are not positive, who can imagine worst-case scenarios. It needs to actively listen to them and embrace their viewpoints!
    The constant pressure to "put on your happy face" is, in itself, massively stressful. It's perfectly possible to be a high performing individual without being a permanent ray of sunshine. Just ask Winston.

  37. Comment by Rupert McNeil posted on

    Thank you to all those who have taken the time to respond to this post. Your comments are key to supporting an open dialogue around mental health - particularly in terms of how we can continue to make progress in this important area.

    The Civil Service is committed to being a leading employer on mental health support. We have achieved much already, both through departments and through the work that is being led by Jonathan Jones and Philip Rutnam, as the respective Civil Service Champions for Health and Wellbeing, and Disability. However, we also recognise that while we are continuing to make progress there is always more that we can do.

    We are committed to building a culture that supports people with mental health issues and helps them to flourish in the workplace and have already taken some positive steps towards this.

    I wholeheartedly agree that services, which may include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), can be an excellent way of supporting mental health. I know that, for me personally, it has been the combination of therapy (including CBT) and medication which have allowed me to manage my own condition. I am proud that the Civil Service, through departmental Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), or equivalent, provides access for all employees to a confidential service. This includes offering advice, counselling (including CBT), support and signposting about a range of mental health and wider wellbeing issues. Details of departmental EAP services can be found on intranet sites.

    It's also really important that we draw on the employee voice through the staff networks we have in place. For example, we work closely with the Civil Service Cross-Government Mental Health Network who collaborated with us to develop the Mental Health: Guide for Managers that was launched earlier this year. Please do contact them or your departmental Health and Wellbeing Champions or HR team to see how you can get involved in helping us continue to promote a positive mental health culture across the Civil Service, or for specific concerns in your department.

    Thanks again,

    Rupert