When you see the words 'mental health', negative connotations often come to mind, but we forget that health is a state of being and not a list of illnesses or problems. Mental health is to do with whichever 'emotional state' a person might be in, ranging from a positive and motivated attitude through to a person suffering from problems such as depression or anxiety.

Supplied for AXA article 19-11-2013With over 25 million people in the UK spending a large part of their lives at work, it should be a top priority for employers across the country to focus on and encourage the good health and wellbeing of their staff members. Simple steps such as daily motivational team gatherings that provide professional support as part of a business health insurance package could make all the difference.

Despite the fact that 1 in 4 people suffer from mental health problems during their lifetime, there's still a stigma attached to those who are suffering setbacks, which means many people prefer not to discuss it. It's therefore important to show your staff that there is support available at work.

Mental health issues can cost British businesses up to £4 billion annually owing to stress-related illnesses as well as costs such as ineffective working and poor interpersonal relationships, which ultimately reduce productivity and staff morale.

The following steps can help businesses reduce these costs and promote a mentally healthy working environment:

Prevent mental health problems before they occur

Help to eliminate or reduce sources of stress by improving working conditions, rethinking job roles and allowing for more flexible working arrangements such as adding more job support to a role through extra members of staff or allowing for more flexible working hours to ease the pressure of a particular job.

Providing staff with support services that allow them to openly discuss their issues with a counsellor or member of management could also allow for problems or issues to be dealt with more efficiently and effectively before it leads to behaviours such as stress and anxiety to occur.

Helping staff members cope with stress

There are situations when employers won't be able to prevent stress from occurring. Stress can effect an individual's mental health in a variety of ways, including stress-related illness such as heart disease or interpersonal issues such as a breakdown of a relationship.

Being able to provide employees with stress-coping mechanisms or positive-thinking exercises could allow the individual to cope better. These could include the following techniques:

• Stress education and management courses – helping people to see the warning signs of stress and find ways to effectively deal with the causes of it

• Interpersonal skills training

• Workshops on relaxation techniques

• Information on how to reduce stress through healthy eating and exercise

• Information on support groups or counselling, which is available to them through their employer

Noticing the warning signs of mental health problems

Being able to identify the early signs of stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health illnesses can be the first step in supporting your employee with their problems and preventing it from worsening. Giving people support as an employer could relieve some of the added stress and worry that might occur for example, feeling that their current mental state could affect their performance review.

It should also be your responsibility as an employer to recommend that the person in question seeks further advice from a medical professional who will be able to offer more options on how they can deal with their mental health issues.

Whether or not your employees are dealing with specific issues relating to mental health, it is important that the working environment is well equipped for a range of problems and that your organisation promotes a healthy work space to try and prevent work related stress.

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