Co-Director Catherine Wimpeney addresses Mental Health Awareness in the workplace
MORE THAN HALF OF BRITAIN’S WORKING DAYS LOST IN 2019/20 WERE DUE TO MENTAL ILL-HEALTH, ACCORDING TO LATEST STATISTICS FROM THE HEALTH AND SAFETY EXECUTIVE (HSE).
Catherine Wimpeney, co-Director at Raiden Lightning Protection Services Ltd [RLPS Ltd] worked as a cognitive behavioural therapist before coming into lightning protection. Catherine states that in her experience of working in mental health for over thirty years, ‘there is a plethora of evidence that to ask for help for mental health problems, regardless of gender, is a sign of weakness. This is particularly relevant [though not exclusive], in the construction industry. The still largely male dominated industry has strived to address Health and Safety Issues to reduce physical injury but has failed dismally to address the psychological aspects of health and safety. The lack of acknowledgement of mental health serves as a silent signal that mental health issues are not to be encouraged and are something to be ashamed of.’
When we launched Raiden LPS Ltd, our family business, we spent many hours developing and composing RAMS [Risk and Method Statements] to include mental health [or psychological injury] as an equal risk to health as physical. I developed a mental health handbook for all employees, and we decided to offer access to six free sessions of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to our workforce. We ensure that mental health is included in our in-house training and have provided access to reading materials and contact information for psychological therapies on our notice board. By setting this example to our own workforce we hope to encourage an open dialogue, not only within the company environment but through wider contact with family members and other colleagues from different trades.
To avoid the huge personal impact on the individual and the costly implications for productivity, each company, large or small, needs to be receptive to the reality of stress related illnesses. And develop clear pathways for addressing such issues.
Excerpt from Building Safety Group Dec /Jan 2020 Newsletter
The rate of self-reported work-related stress, depression or anxiety was 828,000 workers last year, accounting for 17.9 million working days lost. Workload, lack of support, violence, threats or bullying and changes at work are thought to be the main causes of work-related stress, depression or anxiety based on Labour Force Survey data. Speaking to IOSH magazine, Emily Pearson, founder and managing director of corporate mental health training consultancy Our Mind’s Work, said while the new stats are worrying, they’re not surprising.
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations Since the HSE started collecting data on work-related stress, anxiety and depression in 2001 – two years after the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations came into force, which required employers to carry out stress risk assessments and act upon them – there was a steady decrease until 2006 when it returned sharply to 2001 levels, where they remained with slight variation until 2015, explained Emily. ‘Despite numerous mental health awareness campaigns and programmes over the past five years, work-related stress has increased,’ she added. ‘So what’s gone wrong from 2010 to 2019 when the largest increase has occurred? Well, people feel more able to categorise what they’re experiencing, self diagnose and share this information with others. So, as the stigma reduces and awareness increases, this is only to be expected.
But it doesn’t account for all of it.’ Lack of enforcement She believes the second problem is a lack of enforcement and a reluctance to put work-related stress in the same category as say, a broken leg. “We cannot allow this to be ignored any longer – the impact of COVID-19 on people’s mental health is concerning enough without workplaces contributing to the mental health crisis we are sleep walking towards,’ adds Emily. ‘Employers must take ownership of the problem by implementing a robust strategy that provides evaluation of the problem areas and education, skills and training and the tools to deliver the solutions effectively, reducing work related stress before it turns into a psychological injury.’