Rewards & BenefitsHealth and WellbeingThe NHS cannot solve the UK mental health crisis alone

The NHS cannot solve the UK mental health crisis alone

There is a huge emphasis on the NHS to set a parity between mental and physical health within the UK, but the onus cannot rely upon the NHS alone, what are other institutions doing about it, and how can it's importance be heightened?

A £2 billion cash injection to the NHS to assist Mental Health Services will help support those who need it in times of crisis. But it also puts responsibility for providing support services for mental health squarely on the shoulders of the NHS, a service already stretched, under-resourced and drained financially. Businesses also need to take on more responsibility in helping create working environments that have employee well-being at the forefront. Employers have a duty of care to support the total well-being of their people and this means providing access to tools that enable employees to proactively maintain their mental, physical, social and financial wellness.

For many, poor mental health is the result of a combination of personal and work stresses and the lack of support they feel around them to overcome these stresses. This could be financial worries, poor physical health or a lack of social interaction. Current services for mental health are still largely treatment-focused and while effective, only support those who are aware and willing to ask for help. This is where we feel the biggest problem is. We need to change how we approach employee well-being to move it away from being reactive support to enabling people to be proactive about maintaining their wellness and ideally help keep them away from crisis.

Corporate responsibility

Research from Mind has found that work is the most stressful factor in people’s lives with one in three people (34%) saying their work life was either very or quite stressful, more so than debt or financial problems (30%) or even their health (17%). This is a clear indication that some responsibility for the mental health of the workforce sits with the employer, and businesses not providing support for their workers should be held to account.

For some businesses, traditional working patterns are a thing of the past and businesses need to implement cultures that promote well-being and a work/life balance. Culture has to start from the top, with business leaders setting clear expectations and actively promoting the importance of mental, physical, social and financial health.

One of the benefits of modern technology is that everyone carries a device in their pocket that can help support a culture around the importance of well-being. By taking a tech-driven approach, it’s possible to move well-being into the palm of the worker’s hand and give them the ability to seek out the support they need, whenever they need it. We can meet them wherever they are on their journey and they can move at their own pace.  Not only will this help to improve the individuals overall well-being, but it also has direct benefits to the business.

With the right tools, businesses can support 100% of their people 100% of the time and can build a more resilient workforce that’s not just proactive about maintaining their mental, physical, financial and social well-being but is also more engaged, more loyal and more productive. In fact, our research has found that the cost of poor employee well-being equates to disengaged employees which leads to an average of $550bn lost in productivity a year. This, in turn, can lead to employee turnover and replacing a person can cost up to two times their annual salary.

Seismic shifts in attitudes

Thankfully, we have seen seismic shifts in attitudes towards mental health and how it is perceived in the workplace. The next step is for organisations to take responsibility for their employees’ total well-being by providing a comprehensive wellness program, which will support people as they navigate through the daily stresses they encounter. In the UK about 70% of calls to the LifeWorks EAP counselling service are related to mental health issues. Having this confidential service available through a mobile app at work takes away some of the barriers such as going to the doctor and has helped those who may not have ever reached out for support otherwise. We’ve evolved our understanding and perception of mental health over the years, that much is certain. Now is the time to evolve the support system to meet demand.

by Jamie True, Chief Digital Officer, LifeWorks, by Morneau Shepell

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