Written by:
Poppy Jaman, CEO of Mental Health First Aid England

Each year around ten million adults in the UK will experience mental ill health, meaning one in four of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lifetime. Over the past year, awareness of mental health has accelerated, and more and more employers now understand that mental health is not only a serious issue for society but for businesses too.

This year, alongside an increasing number of celebrities, well-known faces and the Royal Family talking about mental health we have seen great work from the likes of the City Mental Health Alliance and the Lord Mayor’s campaign ‘This is me – in the City’ raising awareness of mental health issues.

With ‘workplace’ as the theme for this year’s World Mental Health Day, this offers employers a valuable opportunity to address how mental health is approached in their organisations. Last week, with Business in the Community and others, we co-launched the Mental Health at Work Report 2017, which  reveals three out of every five (60%) employees have experienced mental health issues where work was a related factor.

While it’s evident that attitudes towards mental health in the workplace are shifting, this report demonstrates that employers are still failing to translate increased awareness into action. Worryingly, the figures reveal as many as 1.2 million people have faced disciplinary, demotion or dismissal, after disclosing a mental health issue at work. That’s 15% of the working population and a troubling rise of 6%, when compared with the findings in last year’s report. 

The report also shined a spotlight on the financial services industry. Employees in financial services who experience mental health issues feel more comfortable about approaching somebody at work than those in other sectors. But jobs in financial services are 44% more likely to lead to stress-related illnesses than the average UK job.

The time to act is now. We will only see a culture change across our workplaces when employers value mental health as they do physical health, which is why we want to see every employer who trains staff in physical first aid to also offer Mental Health First Aid. Awareness and talking about mental health openly, is a great first step in creating a mentally healthy organisation. But to better support employees, transform practices and truly embed a whole organisational approach to workplace wellbeing, employers need to offer mental health training.

To date, over 206,000 people in England have Mental Health First Aid skills. Just one employer who has taken ownership of mental health in their workplace is EY. Maggie Stilwell, Managing Partner for Talent at EY, UK & Ireland, commented: “Over 700 of our people in the UK, including senior leaders, have been trained as Mental Health First Aiders. We want to better equip our people to identify when a person is struggling at work, both physically and mentally, and help them to get the support they need.”

Investing in the mental wellbeing of your staff can help retain excellent employees while creating a more supportive, open culture. It just makes sense, for your staff and your bottom line.

For this year’s World Mental Health Day, we launched a ‘Workplace Wellbeing Toolkit’ which illustrates a strategic step by step process to achieving this ‘whole organisational approach’, providing a suite of resources to help facilitate this. We urge employers in the financial industry to act now and take a proactive step towards creating a mentally healthy organisation.

For more guidance around how to approach and respond to a colleague who is experiencing a mental health issue download the free Line Managers Resource at:

Workplace wellbeing on World Mental Health Day
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