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Small companies must take mental health more seriously

AWARENESS: Mental health

PROFESSOR DAME Carol Black has called SMEs to treat mental health issues as a priority and suggests practical steps they can take to introduce a good mental health culture.

Speaking to the British Safety Council, the leading expert and a passionate campaigner promoting good mental health in the workplace, urged SME (small and medium enterprise) owners and managers to get onboard with the mental health agenda.

“One in four employees in the UK have mental health problems. Their symptoms include stress, anxiety and depression, which affect their own performance and wellbeing, as well as that of other workers. These are the key reasons why SMEs should start treating mental health issues as a priority,” said Professor Black. Her practical advice has been recorded by the British Safety Council in a short film, Mental Health & SMEs.

She warned: “mental health issues affect small companies to a much greater extent than larger enterprises. Due to their size and fewer resources, SMEs cannot afford to have employees not working to their full capacity."

“The signs that the things are not well in a company are: poor productivity and employee engagement, as well as various symptoms of stress, which express themselves in growing propensity to take sick leave, increased turnover and presentism.”

Professor Carol Black suggests practical steps which every company, regardless of their size and budget, can undertake to introduce a culture that promotes good mental health.

“You have to train your managers in people management skills and add to this a mental health component. Then they will be able to recognise the signs when an employee becomes less well. This approach should be complemented by training at a peer-to-peer level. Mental health first aid training will enable staff to provide support for their colleagues.

“This approach doesn’t cost very much, although it takes time to develop. It will lead to better staff engagement and productivity, benefiting both employees, their companies and the wider society. However, it has to come from the top,” she concludes.

The British Safety Council is addressing the challenges of mental health and, as a founder and supporter of the charity Mates in Mind, is focused on improving mental health of construction workers.

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