Mental health on the agenda

Pictured at the Mental Health in the Workplace event are: Una Wilson, Equality Commission; Kris Lowry, Inspire Wellbeing; Gemma Burton, Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke; Alderman Tommy Jeffers, Chairman of the Council's Environmental Services Committee; Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, Employers for Disability; Kerrie Simms, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council; Claire Curran, Family voices forum and survivors of suicide; Colin Smith and Victoria Mullan, Inspire Wellbeing.
Pictured at the Mental Health in the Workplace event are: Una Wilson, Equality Commission; Kris Lowry, Inspire Wellbeing; Gemma Burton, Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke; Alderman Tommy Jeffers, Chairman of the Council's Environmental Services Committee; Gabrielle Fitzpatrick, Employers for Disability; Kerrie Simms, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council; Claire Curran, Family voices forum and survivors of suicide; Colin Smith and Victoria Mullan, Inspire Wellbeing.

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council recently hosted a Mental Health in the Workplace event in partnership with Inspire Wellbeing.

Speakers at the event represented a number of organisations. These included Employers for Disability NI, Equality Commission, Inspire Wellbeing, Family voices forum and survivors of suicide and Northern Ireland Chest, Heart & Stroke.

The Council has a close working relationship with local businesses and offers a number of support programmes and networking events for them during the year. This recent event focussed on mental health in the workplace, how employers must comply with any legislative requirements and identify opportunities on how local businesses can improve wellbeing within the workplace.

Alderman Tommy Jeffers, Chairman of the Council’s Environmental Services Committee, welcoming the delegates, said: “Mental health is an issue that makes the news on a regular basis and the Council wanted to ensure that local employers had the necessary toolkit to encourage employees to talk. Approximately 1 in 4 people in Northern Ireland will experience a problem with their mental health at some stage in their lives; and employers can play an important role in helping their recovery.

“An employee who is experiencing mental health issues will display signs that supportive managers should notice such as a change in behaviour, tiredness, lateness, poor performance and tearfulness. When such signs are first noticed it is important to speak with the individual and offer support, do not let the situation progress as this will have a negative impact on the person and in all likelihood lead to an employment tribunal.”

One third of absences are due to work related stress, of which 47% are short term and 53% long term. Common reasons include poor relationships with colleagues, an unsupportive boss, too much or too little to do, lack of control over work done, lack of communication and consultation or unrealistic deadlines. There are a number of simple factors that employers can undertake to reduce such workplace stressors like offering support, adjusting working patterns, reducing hours and establishing an organisational commitment to employee wellbeing.

Local employers were advised of what circumstances constitute unlawful discrimination against an employee with a mental health disability including depression; and successful tribunals were discussed in which the employer failed to make reasonable adjustments and recognise the employee’s condition.

The final message was that by investing in employee wellbeing you will increase productivity, reduce workplace stress, improve morale, reduce absence and improve staff retention. It is a long term commitment and before beginning you need to have the energy and passion!

Employers can sign up to the Equality Commission Mental Health Charter and Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council is pleased to have made its commitment to follow this charter.