Our talk with RedArc‘s managing director places much emphasis on how employers should handle staff with mental health conditions, putting into perspective how the subject should be addressed – and what bosses can expect when staff return from long-term illness. Do you believe the medical industry is successfully tackling mental health issues? The medical industry is staffed by extremely dedicated and experienced staff, however, the pressures faced by the NHS means they are not always able to do their best for patients. Mental health resources are particularly stretched with very long waiting lists, so people with mental health conditions can often deteriorate whilst waiting for vital therapies or treatment to start. In what ways do you invest in charity members’ health and wellbeing? We work with a variety of national and local charities, including Macmillan, Winstons Wish, Different Strokes, British Heart Foundation and Mind. We take the time to research their work and sign-post our clients to the most appropriate charity. We also support charities both in the form of donations as well as the purchase of literature and goods for clients, spanning informative books relating to health conditions, workbooks for bereaved children and memory boxes. We also provide our nurse support to some charities when our expertise is needed such as Care of Police Survivors (COPS) and Tim Parry Jonathan Ball Foundation for Peace and we have also provided training to several charities’ staff members. If money was no object, what health and wellbeing perks/schemes would you advocate employers have in place? Definitely an independent support service giving confidential support for employees for any physical or mental health conditions. This should be readily available to staff members and easily accessible without having to make a request within the company. This would allow employees to seek help early and avoid unnecessary delays in getting the right help. In many cases this could prevent an employee from becoming seriously unwell, particularly with mental health conditions. Services can be made available by a wider range of insurances as well as available directly to companies. We’re glad to see many companies offer this and we’d like to see more do so. How would you advise SME bosses to address staff mental health? SMEs may be surprised that the same good quality support services are available at a very affordable cost. Many group risk and Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP’s) provide support services which provide help for mental health conditions, however, caution is needed as they’re not all the same. Some provide a comprehensive service from a qualified nurse whilst others are a light-touch helpline from non-medical staff. Do you believe that mental health as a taboo subject persists? I feel that the taboo is decreasing and this can only be improved by high-profile people such as the Royal princes and Rio Ferdinand talking about their own experiences and supporting mental health initiatives. Many professions such as the emergency services still have a very macho culture and many employees are reluctant to admit that they have mental health problems in case it is seen as a sign of weakness. However, I have noticed more recognition of the need to change this culture particularly within the police – an organisation where we do a lot of work. On the next page Husbands touches on the subject of staff returning to work after a long absence.
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