Moustaches of course! 

And they’re an increasingly common sight in November, thanks to the Movember Foundation’s plan that:

“For 30 days your moustache turns you into a walking, talking billboard for men’s health”.

Yes, November is National Men’s Health Awareness month and the Movember Foundation is a global charity committed to men living happier, healthier, longer lives by focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, physical inactivity and poor mental health.

Shockingly, on average, 13 men commit suicide in the UK every day (Movember Foundation, 2016).  Globally, a man dies every minute from suicide (Movember Foundation, 2016).  ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) says that mental health problems cost UK employers £30 billion a year because of lost production, recruitment and absence.

So, why are employers not doing more to support employees with mental health problems?  The answer is simple.  People are afraid to talk about their mental health at work and, if they do, those who should listen find it hard to do so.

Given these statistics, this needs to change.  So here we give you some tips and techniques for supporting and managing employees with mental health problems:

Have regular 121s: As a manager, if you can, you should be meeting with the people you manage on a 121 basis every month.  If this isn’t realistic, as you have a large team, or your team works remotely etc., then do this as regularly as you can.

Having regular 121s helps you to build up a rapport with people and to establish trust.  This lays the foundations for people feeling that the professional relationship that you have is a safe one in which they can share any concerns, problems or health issues (whether mental or physical).  However, there’s no point in having regular 121s and only talking about work or workload.  A good 121 should include a discussion on both work and health and welfare.

Meeting regularly face-to-face with your employees also enables you to spot the signs of mental health problems.  121s can be easily recorded and logged as part of an employee’s appraisal process which will help to ensure that any potential concerns are spotted early and as part of a structured process.

  1. Learn to spot the signs: Part of handling mental health issues in the workplace is about having the tools and experience to spot the signs of mental ill health.  This should therefore form part of any training that you have on this matter.  If you’re having regular 121s with your team members, you’ll be able to spot any behavioural changes early on.  Some things to look out for are:
  • An increase in time taken off work as sick leave;
  • A dip in performance;
  • Poor timekeeping;
  • Poor decision-making or struggling to make decisions;
  • Uncharacteristic moodiness or poor communication;
  • Reduced energy levels.
  1. Realise that you already have the skills to support people: As a manager you will (hopefully!) have built up a number of skills that are key to managing mental health problems in the workplace.  These are the ability to communicate well, to consult with your team members and to show empathy.  These are really important, but what is equally important in the scenario of a manager faced with an employee who is showing signs of mental ill health, is the ability to remember that you are not, nor should you try to be, a mental health expert.  The key here is that you use the skills that you have to spot and draw out the problem and that you then ask for expert help.
  1. Use the experts: One of the things that puts managers off managing mental ill health in the workplace is the fact that they feel that they’re not equipped to do so.  The manager’s role is not to have all the answers, but simply to show empathy and to facilitate putting the individual in touch with the support that they need.  Understanding this is absolutely key to changing attitudes towards the management of mental health problems at work. So, spot the change in behaviour, gather the facts as far as you can, or as far as you feel able to do so, and then refer to the experts.  This may be in the form of putting the employee in touch with the Employee Assistance Programme (if you have one), asking them to see their GP, enlisting the support of Occupational Health, funding counselling or CBT for an individual, or suggesting that they contact a mental health charity like Mind.