World Mental Health Day is a great opportunity to start the conversation with your staff about mental health and stress in the workplace.

The day-to-day demands and pressures of work should not be a barrier to good mental health. If you want to attract and retain committed employees, prioritising the mental health of your staff needs to be a core part of your organisations structure.

There are a wide range of legal rights that protect mental health at the workplace, and most people with ongoing mental health problems meet the definition of disability in the Equality Act (2010) and the Disability Discrimination Act (1995). This means that people with mental health problems are protected from discrimination and harassment and are entitled to reasonable adjustments to adapt their job or work.

Recent findings by a Thriving at Work report found that poor mental health of employee’s costs UK employers between £33 – £42 billion a year.

Research made by ‘Mind’, a mental health charity, found that more than one in five (21 per cent) employees agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them. 14 per cent agreed that they had resigned and 42 per cent had considered resigning when asked how workplace stress had affected them.

30 per cent of staff disagreed with the statement ‘I would feel able to talk openly with my line manager if I was feeling stressed,’ and 56 per cent of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but don’t feel they have the right training or guidance.

Therefore, it is essential that you value the mental wellbeing of your employees as core assets to your organisation. Commit to developing an approach to mental health at work that protects and improves mental health for everyone, whilst supporting those people who experience distress.

Use regular staff surveys and other research to build data about staff mental health, to plan and deliver action and inform workplace policies by using the figures of your findings. Recognise and celebrate the impact of existing employee benefits and corporate social responsibility activities on the mental health and wellbeing of staff.

Provide opportunities for managers to attend relevant training to support staff living with mental health problems and the wellbeing of all staff more widely. Designate board champions and ensure senior leaders and middle managers are responsible for implementing mental health programmes.

Awareness of mental health is increasing, but we still face a world where people with mental health problems face discrimination and can face challenges getting the help they need. Many people who experience distress try to keep their feelings hidden because they are afraid of other people’s responses. Fear of discrimination and feelings of shame are among the top reasons people give for not telling their colleagues about their mental health problems.

Therefore, ensure that discrimination on the grounds of mental health status is seen to be as unacceptable as well as discrimination in relation to other protected characteristics such as race, gender or sexual orientation.

World Mental Health Day is October 10th.