Employers from across the Midlands have been given an insight into how a pilot scheme is supporting businesses in the region to start conversations about mental health in the workplace – and the vital importance of taking action.
The Mental Health and Productivity Pilot (MHPP) held an online regional showcase event about its work, including its new “Bridge the Gap, Start a Chat” campaign aimed at improving the support available for mental health at work.
It was chaired by Dr Paul Litchfield, independent Chief Medical Officer to ITV and Compass Group, and featured a number of high-profile speakers including Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of mental health charity Mind, Sir John Peace, Chair of Midlands Engine and a number of key MHPP leaders and researchers.
It also featured a range of Midlands employers who are already actively supporting mental health in their workplaces and are seeing positive benefits, as well as employees with personal experience of mental health issues who gave accounts highlighting just how important this support can be.
MHPP, funded by Midlands Engine, is a collaboration of Midlands universities, local authorities and mental health charity Mind.
It was launched to support employers to understand the important link between staff mental health and wellbeing and business productivity, and to help them take steps towards improving mental health at work through a range of new and existing pilot interventions.
Mental health problems affect one in six workers each year and are the leading cause of sickness absence, and further studies from the University of Warwick’s Enterprise Research Centre (ERC), which were also highlighted at the event, show that Covid-19 has made the issue of workplace mental health more important than ever.
Dr Paul Litchfield said:
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“We were extremely pleased to welcome so many employers from across the region, who were clearly motivated to do more to promote positive mental health in the workplace.
“We were privileged to have a number of Midlands’ employers, from large and small companies, among our speakers. They gave us an invaluable insight into their practical experiences of setting-up mental health programmes in the workplace.
“We also heard from people with the lived experience of dealing with mental health problems at work and how simple things like having someone to talk to can make a profound difference.
“The pandemic has had a huge impact on society. Businesses and working people have struggled to cope with unprecedented pressures. That has taken a toll on the mental health of employees, managers and the self-employed.
“Building back better will require a new approach to running companies in which health is prioritised in order to deliver better business performance.
“The starting point is to create an environment where people can be open about the difficulties they are facing and the effect that is having on their mental health.
“That openness needs to be met with compassion and understanding, treating those in distress as we would wish to be treated ourselves. Normalising mental health is the best way to eliminate stigma and with stigma gone we will all feel more able to ask for and offer the simple human responses that make for a civilised society.
“MHPP is already supporting businesses right across the region, and we are now calling on others to recognise the importance of promoting positive mental health in the workplace.
“Starting conversations is the first step, and MHPP has the free tools and resources to support businesses in doing just that.”