Unions have a critical role in addressing mental health problems at work – Mental Health At Work
18/02/2019

Unions have a critical role in addressing mental health problems at work

Roy Rickhuss CBE
Roy Rickhuss CBE

General Secretary, Community

More people are in work with a mental health condition than ever before, across all workplaces and all ages.

In any one year, over one in four people in the general population and one in six workers are likely to be suffering from a mental health condition.

Due to stigma, lack of knowledge, training and support on how to approach colleagues in the workplace who may be struggling, millions of workers are being left to deal with their mental health issues alone and in silence.

That’s why members of Community trade union at our conference in 2017 voted overwhelmingly for the union to campaign around mental health in the workplace, and to provide tailored support to all of our members on their mental health wherever they work.

We knew something more had to be done.

Whether it was our steelworkers who had lost a loved one due to mental ill-health, our care workers who are overworked and stressed, or our prison officers who witness mental distress on a daily basis, we knew something more had to be done to help those workers.

That meant creating workplace cultures where workers could open up about their mental health without fear of discrimination and where mental health is a priority in the workplace.

At Community, I’m proud that we’re working to do just that.

Community union representatives in the workplace are likely to come across members with mental health conditions at some point throughout our working life. That’s why we recently developed a mental health reps’ guide​Mental health in the workplace: a guide for Community reps PDF 1 0 If you're a trade union rep, colleagues turn to you for support, including about mental health. This guide from Community gives you an overview and shows you what to do next.Free By: Community View resource to provide direct support to our union reps and members by providing guidelines and general “dos and don’ts” when discussing mental health conditions with members and colleagues at work.

Part of Community's Mental Health Charter

We’ve also developed a mental health charter​Community’s mental health charter PDF 6 0 A public pledge can be a useful way of showing that mental health is important to your organisation. By signing this charter, an employer commits to addressing stigma and discrimination and promoting wellbeing and equality.Free By: Community View resource for employers that commits them to tackling stigma, challenging discrimination, promoting equality of opportunity, encouraging wellbeing and raising awareness of mental health in the workplace. A number of our biggest employers have already signed our charter and are working to build on their commitment to mental health in their workplaces and wellbeing of their staff, from Tata Steel and Liberty Speciality Steels, to Serco custodial services and Sodexo.

Workers can make a real difference to their workplaces and the experiences of their colleagues.

By putting into practice the advice and guidance in our resources, as well as the other resources available on the mental health at work website, workers can make a real difference to their workplaces and the experiences of their colleagues at work.

In addition to this, we have signed the Time to Change Employer Pledge​Time to Change Employer Pledge Web page 7 0 The Time to Change Employer Pledge is a great way to show that you are committed to changing attitudes to mental health in the workplace.Free By: Time to Change View resource to show our commitment to mental health and to end discrimination in the workplace. We’ve also teamed up with Mental Health First Aid England​Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England two day workplace training Web page 5 0 Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England offers a variety of training for employers across the UK. This two day workplace course will qualify you as a Mental Health First Aider.Paid forRequires pre-booking By: Mental Health First Aid England View resource to train our staff, our union representatives and members in mental health first aid so they feel prepared when approached by their colleagues about mental health problems. We have encouraged our employers to replicate the same for the wider workforce.

Our campaign in the workplace to raise awareness about mental health problems and increase people’s understanding, as well as encouraging those with mental health problems to talk about their experiences, is changing workplaces for the better and has helped thousands of workers across the country.

We believe it is vital that employers make tackling mental ill-health a priority in their workplaces.

We believe it is vital that employers make tackling mental ill-health a priority in their workplaces, and have a major role to play in supporting their employees who are struggling with their mental health at work. By working together, we can help workers get the support they need to tackle the mental health crisis in workplaces across the country.