Mental Health Awareness Week: IOSH outlines strategies for managing mental health in the workplace

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IOSH highlights key elements for workplace mental health

Mental Health Awareness Week is being observed from 13 to 19 May. Duncan Spencer, Head of Advice and Practice at IOSH, has provided insights into a strategic approach for managing mental health in the workplace.

IOSH emphasises that good mental health is crucial for overall wellbeing and that a fulfilling job plays a significant role by providing a sense of purpose and achievement. Whether mental health issues arise from work-related stress or personal challenges, they impact performance at work.

 IOSH advises that organisations have a moral duty to develop strategies for addressing mental health issues, regardless of their origin.

IOSH advises on prevention, coping, and integration

At the Manchester Safety, Health and Wellbeing event in January 2024, Dr. Ed Corbett from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), speaking on behalf of IOSH, outlined three key elements of an effective mental health management system: prevention, coping and adaptation, and integration.

According to IOSH, prevention is critical but challenging to achieve.  Reactionary measures like mental health first aiders and employee assistance programmes are commonly used.

 Since individual responses to stress vary, predicting reactions is difficult.

 IOSH advises that a sound strategy involves recruiting individuals suited to their roles with the appropriate coping skills.

 With mental health now recognised as an occupational safety issue, IOSH advocates for the principle of “predict to be preventative” to guide strategies.

Building resilience and integrating health considerations

IOSH also highlights the importance of coping and adaptation, which involves building resilience at both individual and organisational levels, often through education.

Managers and employees need to identify potential mental health triggers and know how to respond.

Effective strategies, according to IOSH, must include performance monitoring, responsive actions, and incident reporting and investigation while maintaining confidentiality.

For integration, IOSH stresses that health and safety considerations should be integral to operational decisions.

This includes aligning policies on health and safety, dignity at work, equality, diversity, and inclusion, as well as addressing the needs of all workers, including full-time, part-time, and temporary staff.

IOSH advises that mature organisations extend these considerations to contractors and supply chain partners, ensuring competitive pressures do not compromise health and safety standards.

Enhancing mental health strategies

IOSH suggests that organisations can further enhance their strategies by considering positive measures to improve mental health.

These comprehensive strategies are essential for fostering a supportive and effective work environment.

IFSJ Comment

The advice provided by IOSH underscores the importance of developing a robust mental health management strategy for organisations committed to the wellbeing of their employees.

The insights shared by Dr. Ed Corbett at the Manchester Safety, Health and Wellbeing event offer a comprehensive framework for addressing mental health in the workplace.

IOSH’s emphasis on prevention, coping, and integration highlights the need for a proactive and holistic approach.

By incorporating health and safety considerations into everyday business decisions, organisations can create a work environment where mental health is prioritised.

This approach ensures that all employees, regardless of their employment status, receive the necessary support.

Extending these practices to contractors and supply chain partners reflects a mature and responsible approach to workplace mental health.

As organisations continue to evolve, enhancing mental health strategies with positive measures can further contribute to a supportive work environment, ultimately benefiting both employees and the organisation as a whole.

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