Why is mental health training at work so important?

Lachy Gray, 3 min read
Custom illustration of a brain

The last couple of years have dramatically changed our personal and professional worlds. The impact of this change and uncertainty on our mental wellbeing is significant, but I’m glad to see it’s also received a lot of attention, and normalised discussion of mental health in the workplace.

Since 2019, more employees are leaving their jobs for mental health reasons, including workplace factors like overwhelming workloads and unachievable targets. These are factors that could be changed if there was more awareness that staff are feeling the burn.

A recent Forbes article spoke to the importance of mental health training in businesses. A rise in demand means that mental health training has gone from a “nice to have,” to a “business imperative”. Not only does learning in this area help staff normalise and have conversations about mental health, but it helps them recognise signs of their own stress and mental wellbeing. 

The relationship between mental health and workplace performance is well researched. A global study by Qualtrics found that 42% of people have declined mental health since the start of 2020. Knock-on effects for those surveyed include being irritable, having trouble concentrating, taking longer to finish tasks, and increased anxiety. Increased stress leads to low productivity and performance, social avoidance and even an inability to physically complete tasks.

Unfortunately, it can be isolating for individuals to discuss mental health at work. This is why it’s important to make mental health education accessible for staff, and build a culture of continuous learning so that the workplace can efficiently and successfully talk about and address mental health issues.

Having a workplace where people are confident in asking questions and offering support is important. Often, people don’t want to be saying the wrong thing or upsetting people. Creating a culture of learning about mental wellbeing removes the stigma of talking about it at work. If someone is facing a lot of stress, whether it’s at work or in their personal life, they will feel much more welcome to talk about it with managers and colleagues. 

In turn, their managers and colleagues are better equipped to have conversations about supporting them. According to Forbes, empathy is the most important leadership skill. A lot of the time, people experiencing mental health problems need someone to talk to that will understand. An empathetic leader is much more approachable, and likely to offer helpful advice and solutions to help support that staff member.

Another benefit of educating around mental health is the ability to self-awareness of mental health. As a leader, we likely have a lot on our plate, and need to know when enough is enough. We can dole out support and advice, but need to know when to take our own medicine. If it’s visible to staff that we’re overdoing it, it will only compound their own stress. 

There’s a huge amount that can be covered under the umbrella of mental health training. At Yarno, we target mental wellbeing as part of our internal learning topics. We run campaigns on empathetic communication and mental health routinely, to embed learning in these fields, and equip Yarnoers with the skills and confidence to have conversations around mental health.

We’ve also introduced an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The purpose of this is to give Yarnoers access to counselling services, as well as monthly seminars that look at different elements of mental wellbeing. Some of the seminars that Yarnoers have attended have been on Positive Psychology, personal effectiveness and time management strategies, and applying emotional intelligence at work.

Just like our physical fitness, our mental wellbeing is our own responsibility. We can’t expect someone to swoop in and help us - that’s why education and culture is so important. Building confidence in conversations around mental health, as well as being able to recognise signs in ourselves that we need to slow down, is vital to the wellbeing of those around us, especially in the workplace.

Lachy Gray

Lachy Gray

Lachy's our Managing Director. He's our resident rationalist and ideas man. He also reads way too many books for our liking.

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