During Mental Health Awareness Week, Fran Stulberg, Chair of Riverside’s disability staff group Enable, which leads on mental health at the organisation, looks at why it’s so important for businesses to focus on employee wellbeing.
Why is it important for associations to highlight mental health?
Poor mental health is not a thing to be hidden or not talked about. At Riverside we’ve recognised the impact of mental health for our customers for many years but more recently we have realised that our staff are the foundations of our organisation, so it makes sense to support them through times of both mental and physical ill health.
Highlighting mental health and the support available will help you retain your skilled staff and not have to recruit and train new staff which is time consuming, expensive and can cause a loss of service to your customers.
What is the role of a mental health champion?
Riverside’s 170 mental health champions challenge and change the way employees think about mental health by raising awareness and taking a leading role in helping to overcome the culture of silence.
Or champions, including an Executive Director, attend two-day Mental Health First Aid training, which equips them with techniques and knowledge to support others.
They are a point of contact, helping colleagues tackle mental health issues and signposting them to support, internally or through professional external organisations.
Our champions set up initiatives to improve wellbeing and are there for staff who need to talk. They encourage others to share their experiences as a way to support others who may be suffering in silence.
What are the benefits to housing associations by having mental health initiatives in place?
By having mental health initiatives we have created a safe environment for colleagues to feel comfortable enough to reach their full potential.
Staff here don’t feel they have to mask stress-related illnesses or absences for fear of retribution. Knowing the source of a problem allows organisations to implement the right support mechanisms, leading to lower long-term stress-related absences.
We have mental health champions in every Riverside office so colleagues know there is always someone to talk to when they need assistance. More incentives available to support mental health will likely lead to fewer staff taking time off due related conditions.
What more can housing association do to tackle mental health?
Mental health in the workplace needs to be endorsed from senior leaders, down, and managers need to have the right tools to recognise and support mental health issues within their teams or departments.
All people managers should have to attend awareness training on mental health and be made aware of reasonable adjustments available for them to support their colleagues.
Staff groups, using their specialist knowledge of a topic, can work with HR departments to support staff and managers.
Communication has been key to the success of our mental health campaign. We have a range of support mechanisms, but if people don’t know what is available, they won’t know how to access it.
No one should have to leave half of themselves at the front door of their workplace.