More companies play active role in staff mental health and wellbeing finds survey
GSK has partnered with laya healthcare to roll out an innovative employee mental health initiative to help open the conversation around the issue in the workplace
Joe Sherlock, corporate manager with laya healthcare: “Employees know they can go to their manager with a mental health issue just the same as they can with a physical problem like a bad back.” Photograph: iStock
Almost two thirds of adults in Ireland (65 per cent) know someone who struggles with their mental wellbeing regularly, while almost six in 10 (56 per cent) say that anxiety has caused them difficulty in sleeping. At the same time, 82 per cent believe that the conversation around mental health needs to change in Ireland, with three quarters (75 per cent) agreeing that a stigma still exists around those suffering from anxiety.
These are among the stark findings of laya healthcare's latest Mental Health Research survey, carried out among 1,000 adults at the beginning of September, by Empathy Research. The survey also found that just 17 per cent of adults would rate their mental health as being very good, while 10 per cent would rate it as either bad or very bad.
Fortunately, employers across Ireland are beginning to play an active role in their employees’ mental health and wellbeing. “Our experience shows that employers are placing an increasing emphasis on mental health within these programmes,” says Joe Sherlock, corporate manager with laya healthcare. “They appreciate their duty of care to their employees and understand that they are uniquely well placed to help them tackle mental health issues.”
Thrive in Mind is a key pillar within laya healthcare’s overall Thrive health and wellbeing programme and addresses mental health directly by empowering individuals to perform the best they can at work and home. Thrive in Mind is tailored to meet the specific needs of each workplace as well as the needs of individual employees.
Leading international pharmaceutical company, GSK has partnered with laya healthcare to roll out some key elements of the Thrive in Mind programme, including the innovative Mindscore online assessment tool as part of its Employee Assistance Programme/24/7 Mental Wellbeing Support Programme.
The Mindscore tool collects anonymous data and insights from employees to support the creation of programmes that positively improve team-members’ lives. The process involves an employee questionnaire which asks about mood, anxiety, stress, and other aspects of mental wellbeing. It also addresses the stigma around the issue by asking how comfortable people are about speaking to colleagues and others about it. Individual employees receive results and recommendations for action where appropriate. Employers are given an aggregate score which can be used as a benchmark to measure future progress.
GSK started their health and wellbeing journey with the Mindscore assessment over two years ago and it was decided to follow that up with mental health workshops for managers in the organisation. The two-hour workshop looked at the signs and symptoms of mental health issues to look out for, how managers can offer support to their teams, and how to direct employees to appropriate care pathways. The overall aim was to help managers become more comfortable and confident about having often challenging mental health conversations with employees.
“This was a very positive step,” says Joe Sherlock. “It demonstrated the organisation’s commitment to mental health and wellbeing and helps break down the stigma surrounding the issue. Employees know they can go to their manager with a mental health issue just the same as they can with a physical problem like a bad back.”
GSK decided to follow it up with the laya healthcare Reach training programme for mental health first responders (MHFR). The programme teaches participants to recognise the early signs of mental health issues and to provide assistance when someone is in crisis or struggling.
During the two-day course the mental health first responders develop key skills and, using the five-step Reach approach, learn how to: reach out to someone in distress; encourage those in need to engage; assess for risk; connect the person to appropriate professional help; and help them access the supports needed.
An initial pilot was carried out in the GSK Dungarvan site and as a result two additional Reach programmes were run in GSK’s Dublin and Cork facilities and 45 volunteer mental health first responders have now been trained.
The response to the initiative has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Clara O'Gorman of GSK. “Everyone who attended the training had volunteered for it. In fact, there were more volunteers than places available,” she says. “We had a wide mix of employees from a variety of roles and not many were line managers.”
Among the issues identified by the responders following the training was the need to challenge banter and poor behaviour around mental health, a desire for more mental health education for everyone on an ongoing basis, and the need for increased awareness of services available under GSK’s healthcare policy such as the Employee Assistance Programme/24/7 Mental Wellbeing Support Programme.
“Mental health first responders attend team meetings and town halls to give an introduction to their role and other supports and services available,” says O’Gorman. “The first responders want to help start the conversations about mental health and let people know who they are and what their role is. We are also in the process of designing a quick reference pack for trained responders, a short training module for all employees, support plans for responders facing daytime, night-time, weekend crisis situations and non-crisis situations.”
In addition, a full listing of all external support services is being made available to all employees while monthly health and wellbeing bulletins now include Employee Assistance Programme/24/7 Mental Wellbeing Support Programme numbers and details as standard.
“We have also formed two MHFR employee resource groups to work on ideas to ensure the programme lives,” O’Gorman adds. “And one site has reallocated two rooms to create employee resource spaces – where employees will be able to get information, have a quiet chat or have some quiet time out on their own. Overall, we have had an amazing response from colleagues who completed the training as well as huge support from our leadership teams.”
“It’s really great to see GSK make this commitment to supporting their employees’ mental health,” says Joe Sherlock. “Not only has the company implemented the laya healthcare Thrive in Mind and Reach Mental Health First Responders programme, but they have gone further by integrating the first responders into day-to-day employee briefings. This will go a long way towards destigmatising mental health issues in the workplace and help improve employees’ mental wellbeing.”
For more, visit layahealthcare.ie/evolvewiththrive/gsk
Insurance is provided by Elips Insurance Limited trading as Laya Healthcare. Laya Healthcare Limited, trading as Laya Healthcare and Laya Life, is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.
Research was carried out by Empathy Research on behalf of laya healthcare amongst 1,000 Irish adults aged 18+ in August 2018.