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SMEs urged to take mental health more seriously

Professor Dame Carol Black

Leading expert suggests practical steps to help introduce a good mental health culture

PROFESSOR Dame Carol Black, a leading expert and a passionate campaigner for good mental health in the workplace, is urging SME (small and medium enterprise) owners and managers to get on-board with the mental health agenda.

According to Professor Black, one in four employees in the UK has mental health problems. Their symptoms include stress, anxiety and depression, which affect their own performance and well-being, as well as that of other workers.


‘These are the key reasons why SMEs should start treating mental health issues as a priority,’ 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 things are not well in a company are: poor productivity and employee engagement, as well as various symptoms of stress, which express themselves in a growing propensity to take sick leave, increased staff turnover, and presentism,’ she said.

Professor Black (pictured) suggests a number of practical steps that every company, regardless of size or 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,’ she said. ‘Then they will be able to recognize 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 employees, their companies and wider society. However, it has to come from the top,’ she concluded.

Professor Black will be a keynote speaker at the British Safety Council’s Annual Conference, ‘Health and Safety: preparing for the future’, which will take place on Wednesday 4 October 2017 at The King’s Fund, London.

Here, she will address mental health issues in the workplace, using case studies to demonstrate the simple steps that can be taken to reduce the stigma and support employees.


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