This #MentalHealthWeek 2018, the focus is on stress. The link between stress and poor mental health is undeniable with 51% of adults who have reported feeling stressed also feeling depressed, and 61% also feeling anxious .
Today people seem to be experiencing periods of extreme stress more often than ever. Over the past year, 74% of people have at some point felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope .
These worrying mental health statistics from 2017 and 2018 are exactly why it is so important that this Mental Health Week is used to take action and fight against the threat of poor mental health.
With mental health problems becoming better recognised, it is important that both employers and individuals do what they can to raise awareness and be as prepared as possible if a mental health issue is raised.
Employers, managers, and HR professionals need to be equipped to help an employee that may be suffering from a mental health issue or stress. This means having a plan of action to address common mental health problems and ensuring that there are means of communication if an employee wants to address any issues or requires additional support.
71% of employees still consider mental health to be a taboo subject in the workplace – so much so that 45% of people will make up an alternative reason for work absence rather than report a mental health issue to their employer .
Too many employees lack the confidence to reveal their mental health concerns to their peers or employers, which means that they are often left suffering in silence or forced to make excuses.
Many employers are already taking steps to resolve this issue. In 2018, 51% of organisations are actively increasing awareness of mental health issues compared to only 31% in 2016 .
This can be done by hosting workshops, providing easily accessible learning resources and information for employees, and ensuring that the procedure for reporting a mental health issue is clearly communicated to everyone and included in your employee handbook.
45% of UK workers say that their place of work does not have any measures in place to help reduce employees’ stress levels and improve their mental well-being  and only 6% of organisations have a standalone mental health policy .
It’s not enough to simply raise awareness of mental health problems and stress; in order to fully support those in need, employers should be taking an active approach to resolving some of the environmental factors at work that may cause stress or agitate mental illness.
Some of the most popular ways in which employers are tackling stress is by offering flexi-time (21%), allowing staff to work from home (18%) and organising social events (12%) .
These are some of the best options available to tackle workplace stress and restore a healthy work-life balance, which is a key part of maintaining good mental health.
When it comes to managing existing mental health problems, some employers are also offering counselling services to employees which may be something to consider as an employee benefit if you are hoping to provide additional support.
46% of adults experiencing stress reported that they developed unhealthy eating habits, 29% reported that they started drinking alcohol or increased their alcohol consumption, and 16% reported that they started smoking or smoked more .
The unhealthy habits that people develop as a means of coping with stress and mental health problems can having devastating effects on their physical health.
The best way to address this is to make it more convenient for employees to make healthy choices.
Providing healthy snacks, regular breaks for physical activity, and avoiding team building events that revolve around alcohol is a good start to promote physical health as well as mental health.
It is also good motivation to lead a healthy lifestyle if employers provide incentives. This could be in the form of discount gym memberships or rewards for employees that make healthy life choices, such as giving up smoking or choosing to cycle to work.
More than one in five people (22%) reported feeling stressed due to debt and more than 7 in 10 people that have contacted Citizens Advice have had mental health problems in the last year .
Providing financial education and planning advice could be a vital preventative measure to help employees avoid or escape debt. 76% of employers think that it is essential to provide financial education to employees, and yet only 32% of employers actually provide it .
When it comes to protecting your employees against financial pitfalls, products like Group Income Protection or Group Life Insurance can help to take a considerable amount of worry off of people’s minds.
Employer provided financial protection products like Group Life Insurance and Group Income Protection are specifically designed to step in during difficult situations and provide much needed financial support. Knowing that they have these to fall back on can do a world of good for employees and reduce some of their stress caused by money worries.
Head of Employee Benefits at Drewberry