Mental Health in the workplace

It has been interesting to note that mental health has now risen as an issue on both the business and political agenda, hence the focus on it in in the media over the last few months and in the recent General Election.


Both the current Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition vehemently agree that something needs to be done to remove the stigma associated with mental health, which must be a first for these two individuals!


Having recently joined the Board of Oakleaf Enterprise in Guildford, a Charity helping those affected with mental health issues in Surrey, it’s clear that there’s a significant demand for support services for those that need help and that we need to improve health service provision to assist those affected.



The “safe haven” at the premises at the premises every evening 365 days a year, is always busy helping those needing help or just someone to talk to. Quotes from clients such as


“Oakleaf has helped me to stay out of hospital. Also, I don’t feel judged here, so thank you” make being a Trustee and helping in a small way so rewarding.


A focus of Oakleaf is the need to develop and improve the confidence of those that have been affected and enable them to make a contribution to society particularly in the workplace. A respected manager I used to work for used to say to me that, “without confidence we all struggle and find it difficult to perform”.


For far to long the subject of mental health has been a taboo in the workplace and been seen as secondary to that of physical health. With one in four of us struggling with mental health issues at some time in our lives it’s an issue that cannot be ignored.


I recently wrote about the issue of addressing this stigmatisation.

Since joining the advisory Board of the University of Surrey Business School it’s been encouraging for me to see the good work being done to research how we can improve mental health and well being in the workplace.


A recent evening event in the SBS Business Lab featured the truly inspiring Geoff McDonald talking about his story of how he managed his anxiety induced depression and how he created supportive management structures to deal with in his organization and how he now advocates and supports organisations seeking to reduce anxiety and depression within their organisation.


Within the Business School here is a focus on quality of working life within organisations conducted by the People & Organisations Department, with one research cluster dedicated to research broadly within the domains of well-being, employee skills, job control, compensation and work and life quality.  The team actively contribute to the work of the British Psychological Society’s Work and Health Working Party, and recently provided input on a Green Paper on Work, Mental Health and Disability, written by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Health in the UK.


The report details a transformation of mental health care in England, aimed to help more and more people recover from mental health problems, supporting them to achieve greater well-being, build resilience and independence and optimise life chances.  The report is currently in draft stage.


In March, the IoD launched a major initiative to recognize the importance of good mental health in the workplace with the publication of the policy report “A little more conversation”.


The report details the results of a recent IoD member survey exploring the subject. Interestingly nearly 98% of those surveyed see the importance of good mental health in the workforce as important with 81% seeing it very important.


It’s recognized that poor mental health results in poor quality of work, poor decision making, conflict between colleagues and higher staff turnover. Over half of respondents had been approached by a staff member suffering from poor mental health. With 80% not having a formal mental health policy in place that alone makes a solution more problematic. Most SMEs relied on referring the employee to their GP.


As well as reporting on the issue the report also makes suggestions on how we can improve the situation. It recommends amongst other suggestions that Business leaders should institute formal mental health and wellbeing policies.

Also that Boards should appoint a non-executive director to work with the executive team to ensure mental health openness is culturally installed across an organisation.


Recently I wrote about how IoD leads the way in creating a Director of the Year Award for leaders advocating and acting upon improving mental health in the workplace

Hopefully we are beginning to develop a culture that it should be normal practice to break the taboo about mental health at work. We can now start dealing with it to maximize the potential of everyone and also improve productivity. We all need to tackle this difficult subject and I urge you to get involved and make workplaces across Surrey a better place and “start the conversation”.


PS- A plea for help

On the 2nd July my son Alistair and I will be tackling the Farnham Charity bike ride 50 mile course on behalf of Oakleaf. We are cycling 50 miles (and 3000ft plus of climbing!) on the Farnham Charity Bike Ride & Sportive 2017 on 2nd July for Oakleaf Enterprise our fundraising page is here

Oakleaf is a fantastic charity that works hard to help people with mental health issues in Surrey. We haven’t got a specific target but even the smallest donation will help as mental health is a really prominent issue in our country today, and small charities such as Oakleaf need as much support as we can give.

If you can’t donate, Oakleaf have their own upholstery business – ideal to refresh those tired chairs or sofas. We also run a horticulture team who can look after all of those horrible garden tasks. Both of these enterprises help those who’ve suffered with mental health issues gain their confidence and get back into the world of work.

Just remember suicide is the single biggest killer for men under the age of 45, the staggering outcome for 2015 yielded an annual total of 6,188 deaths by suicide, equivalent to nearly 17 people per day. If this was a physical illness the country would be appalled by it.

Please help if you can

UPDATE on 3rd July

My son and I have now completed the ride if you can support us it would help a great cause – even £1 would help

  • 50.3mi
  • 3:29:53
    Moving Time
  • 3,511ft
    Elevation (?)
  • 132W
    Estimated Avg Power
  • 1,662kJ
    Energy Output
Avg Max
Speed 14.4mi/h 40.5mi/h
Elapsed Time 3:54:47

Over 14mph not bad for an old guy!

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2 Responses to Mental Health in the workplace

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