Mental Health Awareness and the Evolving Role of HR Professionals

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The Mental Health Foundation has announced that the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness week (May 9th, 2022 – May 15th, 2022) is loneliness. Loneliness is a particularly relevant topic in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, where many were isolated from family and friends due to the nationwide stay-at-home order. To stop the spread of the virus, many were self-isolating or shielding away from family and friends, which has in turn created what some are calling a loneliness epidemic.

Many people feel lonely from time to time but working from home and self-isolation have made it increasingly common for these feelings to become deep-rooted. Even so, mental health remains a taboo topic in the workplace. It is a highly complex topic which touches on many aspects of effective Human Resources management.

The benefits of improving mental health awareness in the workplace extend far beyond ethicality and morality – it also makes sense commercially. It’s no secret that poor mental health hurts engagement, productivity, and overall employee happiness. Therefore, assuring that your workforce is well supported and has access to the proper tools and information should be a strategic priority.

Proactively addressing mental health in the workplace ensures that your workforce can perform to their highest ability and contributes heavily to increased employee retention.

But what role should Human Resources departments play in combatting loneliness and broader mental health issues?

Instead of reacting to poor mental health, HR leaders need to work towards actively promoting continuous positive well-being. To shift the narrative towards a proactive approach, company leaders should provide learning opportunities to de-stigmatise mental health issues, create a meaningful work environment, and engrain a sense of shared purpose into the heart of the company and its values.

Some helpful strategies are:

  1. Mental health first aiders – train employees to spot the early signs of ill mental health.
  2. Employee Assistance Programs – provide access to an accessible mental health plan and help employees navigate your organisation’s resources.
  3. Open Communication – readily share information about policies, benefits, training, and other resources frequently with your entire organisation. Ask for feedback.
  4. Trainingprovide mental health and stress management training to all employees and ensure managers are adequately trained so they know how to signpost to practical support.

Nurturing employee well-being is critical to developing workplace resilience. The goal is to create a work environment that prevents mental health problems before they develop. It will look different for each organisation; however, Human Resources departments are effectively the custodians of mental health awareness in the workplace. HR professionals should be prepared to spot the warning signs of mental health issues among employees and be well equipped to guide their organisations towards a transparent and adaptable approach to meet each employee’s needs.


Associate Director, Human Resources and Reward

Matthew Bettesworth