5 Reasons Your Workplace Needs Mental Health Champions


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Monday, September 12, 2022

Appointing dedicated mental health champions will show your commitment to workforce wellbeing and help your employees stay well.

Article 4 Minutes
5 Reasons Your Workplace Needs Mental Health Champions

It’s never been more important for employers to engage with the issue of mental health and adopt clear, proactive strategies to help their workers maintain high standards of wellbeing.

According to Mind Share Partners' 2021 Mental Health at Work Report:

  • 76% of workers in the US reported experiencing at least one symptom of a mental health condition in the past year
  • 84% reported at least one workplace factor that has negatively impacted their mental wellbeing
  • 50% of full-time employees have left a previous role due, at least in part, to mental health reasons
  • Respondents missed eight days of work, on average, as a result of mental health challenges

On the positive side, the research also showed companies are doing more to address this issue, with an increase in dedicated mental health days and training.

If you want to make a bigger commitment to supporting your employees and helping them stay well at work, one possible course of action is to appoint specialist mental health champions. This can lead to benefits including a more understanding, supportive company culture, higher productivity and reduced absenteeism.

What is a mental health champion?

Mental health champions are individuals or groups of employees within your business who lead efforts to raise awareness and deliver education around the importance of mental wellbeing in the workplace.

They collaborate with the HR department in making progress towards goals such as:

  • Reducing stigma and raising awareness around mental health in the workplace
  • Introducing dedicated schemes and initiatives to help individuals manage and improve their personal wellbeing
  • Providing development and learning opportunities for staff

There are mental health champion training schemes available, which can add credibility to your efforts and also help those who are interested in taking on this responsibility to improve their own knowledge and confidence.

Successful mental health champions are likely to have skills and qualities such as:

  • An existing interest in the subject and a desire to help those who are affected by mental health issues at work
  • A willingness to learn and keep up with recent research and developments in this area
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Leadership qualities
  • Compassion and empathy 

Learn more: How (and How Not) to Manage Employees with Anxiety

If you have people in your company with traits like these, introducing the idea of them becoming mental health champions could lead to many benefits for the business and its workforce.

1. Being proactive on mental health

A key advantage of giving individuals or teams a specific responsibility to take the lead on mental health is that it will help the company be more proactive in its approach to this issue.

If you're highly engaged with common challenges and concerns in this space - such as work-related triggers for stress and anxiety - you'll be in a better position to help employees maintain positive practices that reduce the risk of these problems occurring in the first place.

2. Delivery of education and information

Education and awareness are vital when it comes to reducing stigma around mental health and creating a workplace culture in which everyone feels they can be honest about how they're feeling.

Mental health champions can take the lead on supplying information and up-to-date, relevant materials that improve understanding and engagement with this subject. A focused training scheme on anxiety disorders, for example, will give employees a better idea of what this health condition really means and how to look for signs of it in the workplace.

3. A strong company voice on mental health

If you don't have a designated mental health lead in your business, it's easy for this issue to be forgotten about, or merely given lip service in company updates and announcements with no concrete action to back up the words.

Your champions should have the opportunity to speak regularly about mental wellbeing at occasions such as company events and staff meetings. This is particularly important seeing as the people most affected by mental health issues at work may not have the confidence to speak up themselves.

4. One-to-one support

When people within your organization are struggling with aspects of their mental health, it's important for them to know there is a nominated individual or team they can approach to discuss their concerns or ask questions.

This direct support and engagement is highly valuable for workers whose confidence has been affected by their recent health challenges. These individuals may not know where to turn or who to talk to when they're finding things difficult - a problem that would be solved by the appointment of a mental health champion.

5. The right image for recruitment

Employer policies and action around mental health are becoming increasingly important considerations for jobseekers and in-demand professionals.

In an article for Forbes, David Morel, founder and CEO of Tiger Recruitment, noted that job benefits such as mental health and wellbeing provisions have "taken on a new significance" in recent years, partly due to the impact of the pandemic.

Appointing mental health champions in your business shows your commitment to looking after your staff and helping them achieve high standards of wellbeing. This will help you not only attract high-caliber employees, but also keep hold of the valuable talent you already have.

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