When your work is focused on caring for others, it’s perhaps all the more important that you feel able to speak openly about your own mental health, and seek support when you need it. And, at a time when recruiting and retaining staff is critical for NHS organisations, the need to consider staff wellbeing is all the more obvious.
Staff must feel able, rather than obligated, to stay in work
In a guest blog written for Mental Health at Work, NHS Employers’ Chief Executive Danny Mortimer, is clear: “Staff must feel able, rather than obligated, to stay in work if they are experiencing mental ill health.” In other words, it’s not just about whether people can have time off: it’s about creating the conditions whereby work is a supportive environment where NHS staff can thrive.
Line managers are a key part of this, as these are the people who staff ought to be able to turn to first. They should be supported so that they have the confidence to have conversations about mental health with their staff.
Beyond that, it’s helpful to think about three simultaneous types of activity that can support staff:
The preventative: raising awareness of mental health in general, creating a culture where it isn’t stigmatised, and having regular check-ins to see how staff are doing;
Targeted interventions when people need them, either provided in-house or by effective signposting, when issues like burnout, stress or resilience are a problem;
A culture of self-care, where mechanisms for staff to look after themselves are shared and encouraged, such as mobile apps, mindfulness techniques and lifestyle changes.
NHS Employers provides a wide range of resources that are freely and easily accessible for NHS organisations to use. The ones it has specifically recommended below, including ones it has produced and from other organisations, should be a really good place to start.
It's easier to recognise someone's physical than emotional wellbeing. This easy-to-use tool has been developed with NHS staff to help them talk openly about emotional health, look at its impact and plan actions to enable more good days than bad.
Wellness Action Plans are an easy way to help support your own mental health at work and that of your team members. Mind has guidance and templates to get you started, for both employees and line managers.
Leadership has a key role to play in challenging stigma. In this podcast, Deborah Lee, CEO of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, discusses her decision to open up to staff about her own mental health and the effect it had on workplace culture.
This free online training shows how you can help people who might be contemplating suicide by bringing up the subject and offering support. The course is available to everyone and is accessible without any kind of registration or login.
Every Mind Matters is a national mental health platform from Public Health England. This hub is full of practical tips and resources to help you look after your mental health, including videos, online tools and links to help services.
The NHS Health and Wellbeing Framework helps NHS organisations to plan and implement their own approach for improving staff health and wellbeing. It includes underlying structural and cultural aspects as well as a range of targeted and preventative measures.