Why are Line-Managers the Key to Managing Mental Health?

12 May 2022

What is mental health?

Mental Health Foundation logo-1This week in the UK is ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’, an initiative aiming to raise awareness about the importance of mental health in our everyday lives. Everyone has ‘mental health’, and it is important that it isn’t confused with mental illness.

Just like physical health, mental health can lead us to feel a bit under the weather. And while someone may be suffering from low mental health, that does not mean they have a mental illness. Similarly, someone can have a mental illness but good mental health. It is vital for employers, and their employees to know the key differences to understand and help individuals suffering from low mental health or mental illness.

Although mental health and mental illness are two separate things and should be treated as such, both can be positively and negatively influenced by life events, day-to-day stresses, and daily habits and coping strategies.


Mental health at work

Gallup found that managers can account for at least a 70 percent variance in employee engagement levels. Which means that line-managers play a key role in determining employee health, wellbeing, and engagement and are central to their employee’s mental health.

Firstly, they are best positioned to spot the signs of poor mental health in their team and provide support. Secondly, their behaviour, how they manage the team, and how they promote good mental health can have a positive or negative influence on their employees.


Why is Mental Health an issue for organisations?

  1. 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England.
  2. 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (like anxiety and depression) in any given week in England [1]
  3. Poor mental health is estimated to cost employers between £33bn and £42bn a year in sick pay and lost productivity.
  4. Stigma for mental health issues is a barrier to progress. 64% of employees say that reaching out to HR or management about a mental health issue would negatively impact their job security.


Why being well is good for business

Investing in employee mental health makes good business sense and according to a recent Deloitte study of Canadian organisations, businesses that invest in mental health programs saw a median annual ROI of CA $1.62 for every dollar spent. This increased to $2.18 for programs that were in place for three or more years. And, according to a separate study, early-intervention programs like crisis counselling, behavioural health screening, and emotional fitness guidance can have ROIs of up to $65 for every dollar spent.

It is unsurprising then, that employee health and wellbeing has moved into the top five of boardroom issues. Currently 81 percent of FTSE 100 companies are now undertaking an annual wellbeing programme.


How organisational line-managers can support their employees

Train your line managers – in order for them to spot and support all aspects of mental health in the workplace. Training should also include how line-managers can support positive mental health and include regular refresher training.

Be proactive in mental health training - increase mental health literacy of all staff and provide opportunities for them toArticle photos 2 learn how to manage their own mental health. Ensure staff are suitably prepared and educated to have effective conversations about mental health.

Continually promote the services the organisation offers - include those that can support people with mental health issues, as well as initiatives helping individuals boost their mental health.

Conduct regular anonymous employee mental health surveys - review current mental health levels and obtain feedback on the tools and services available. But don’t just ask, also make sure that you are transparent with results and take positive action.

Include mental health awareness at all stages of employment - make it part of your induction, ensure staff are given information on how mental health is managed and what support is available.

Get employees involved - introduce mental health champions, and promote the views of employees across the organisation, specifically exploring feedback from people with mental health problems.

Provide individual support for staff who are experiencing mental health problems - One size does not fit all when dealing with causes and support for mental health problems. Having an array of solutions is key to providing the right support.

Claire Bennett, co-founder of Executive Science

Claire Bennett has a degree in Psychology and an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching. She spent nearly 15-years in a corporate career, working in insurance and finance. In 2018 Claire co-founded Executive Science, a wellbeing consultancy working with individuals and organisations across multiple sectors.

Executive Science works with leading professionals in behavioural change, coaching, and wellbeing, to deliver a comprehensive service, that utilises the latest wellbeing research and best practice. Our specialist approach to workplace wellbeing creates sustainable solutions that provide benefits for organisations and their people.