Each year around ten million adults in the UK will experience mental ill health, meaning one in four of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lifetime. Over the past year, awareness of mental health has accelerated, and more and more employers now understand that mental health is not only a serious issue for society but for businesses too.

With ‘workplace' as the theme for this year's World Mental Health Day, this offers employers a valuable opportunity to address how mental health is approached in their organisations. Last week, with Business in the Community and others, we co-launched the Mental Health at Work Report 2017, which reveals three out of every five (60%) employees have experienced mental health issues where work was a related factor.

While it's evident that attitudes towards mental health in the workplace are shifting, this report demonstrates that employers are still failing to translate increased awareness into action. Worryingly, the figures reveal as many as 1.2 million people have faced disciplinary action, demotion or dismissal after disclosing a mental health issue at work. That's 15% of the working population and a troubling rise of 6%, when compared with the findings in last year's report. 

Furthermore, mental health related absences cost UK employers an estimated £35 billion per year - over £1,300 per employee. A company culture that fails to address mental health issues could find that not only does their productivity suffer but their ability to attract and retain talent is hampered too.

Whether your business is big or small, having support available in the workplace is paramount. The time to act is now. Awareness and talking about mental health openly, is a great first step in creating a mentally healthy organisation. But to better support employees, transform practices and truly embed a whole organisational approach to workplace wellbeing, employers need to make the offer of mental health training a priority.

To date, over 206,000 people in England have Mental Health First Aid skills. Enlightened employers - such as Unilever, WHSmith and EY - are training staff to support the mental and emotional wellbeing of their teams by becoming Mental Health First Aiders. This means there are members of staff trained in how to recognise the symptoms of common mental health issues and can effectively guide people towards the right support.

For this year's World Mental Health Day, we launched a ‘Workplace Wellbeing Toolkit' which illustrates a strategic step by step process to achieving this ‘whole organisational approach', providing a suite of resources to help facilitate this. We urge employers of all shapes and sizes to act now and take a proactive step towards creating a mentally healthy organisation.  

Investing in the mental wellbeing of your staff can help retain excellent employees while creating a more supportive, open culture. It just makes sense, for your staff and your bottom line. 

For more guidance around how to approach and respond to a colleague who is experiencing a mental health issue, click here to download the free Line Managers Resource