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Business & Economy

Our Minds Work founder calls for better approach to workplace mental health

A more joined-up approach to mental health in the workplace must be adopted if business is serious about helping employees, it has been claimed.

Emily Pearson, founder and managing director of Team Valley-based corporate mental health consultancy Our Minds Work, said employers must increase understanding of their responsibilities to staff.

Speaking at the start of International Stress Awareness Week, Emily said discussions on mental health must be “framed better and contextualised to address the root causes” to provide better support.

Citing a Health and Safety Executive report showing workplace stress, anxiety and depression as the largest causes of sick days in 2018-2019, she said now was the time for decisive action.

“A lot of what has been happening around raising awareness of mental health problems, such as stress, depression and anxiety, and the reducing of stigma around these discussions and what they can lead to, including suicide, has been very positive and significant,” said Emily, pictured left.

“But these discussions need to be framed better and contextualised to address the root causes.

“You wouldn’t raise awareness of heart disease without talking about the specific issues around its root causes, such as poor diet or lack of exercise.

“But this is exactly what is happening to the national discourse and in many campaigns around mental health,” said Emily, who has more than 20 years’ experience in delivering mental health services.

“Employers need to be aware of their responsibilities toward employee psychological health,” she added.

“As we have significantly raised awareness with campaigns to promote talking about our mental health, at the same time there has been a significant gap in any form of mental health education for people.

“This fails to give clarity and a deeper understanding to facts around mental illness,” said Emily, who works with organisations including Northumbrian Water Group and Newcastle-based law firm Muckle LLP.

“The real problem is that employees and employers have a lack of education around what is a normal human response to establishing when it becomes a disorder,” added Emily.

“This leaves some employees mistakenly thinking that they have a clinical mental illness and leaves employers struggling to understand how they need to respond.

“They need to be assessed by suitably qualified healthcare practitioners to ensure the correct diagnosis is given, treatments provided, and reasonable adjustments made in the workplace for the correct support to be provided.”

“Only then will the best outcomes for the employee and the workplace happen.”