A Duty of Care

David Casey

by David Casey, DeCare Dental

Mental health can often fall by the wayside compared to physical health, but, in reality, they should be treated with the same duty of care. A healthy, happy workforce is a productive and engaged workforce. The wealth of your business depends on the health of your workers. It’s often easy to broadly speak about what employers should do by simply saying ‘they need to make things better for employees’ and leave it at that.

However, that doesn’t actually provide practical advice for employers who want to make a difference. Reducing stigma, staff engagement and mental health training are key elements small business can offer. One of the most important things to promote good mental health is the need to develop strong interpersonal skills and the ability to then bring these skills to your employees.

Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. Our social, psychological, and biological factors determine the level of mental health of a person. Poor mental health is seen and also associated with rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill-health and human rights violations.

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Creating workplace environments where people can be open and positive about their own and others’ mental health:

• Promotes overall organisational and
individual wellbeing
• Reduces absenteeism
• Enhances employee stress
management skills
• Reduces cost associated
with absenteeism, employee
relations issues, talent retention
and acquisition
• Can assist employers in developing
systems to support the 1 in 4
employees who may experience
mental health difficulties at a
given point

Creating a supportive environment where it is easier for all employees to speak openly about mental health and wellbeing is key. Reducing stigma in the workplace and making sure that those who have a mental health problem are supported by their employer and their colleagues is not without its challenges. Get the discussion started by asking your workforce the following:

In the last year have you ever:

• Visited a doctor/counsellor to talk about your mental health?
• Missed time from college or work because you felt mentally unwell?
• Taken any form of medication to prevent you from feeling or because you were feeling mentally unwell?

People with mental health problems say that the social stigma attached to mental ill health and the discrimination they experience can make their difficulties worse and make it harder to recover. 85% of people agree that anyone can experience a mental health problem, but, 62% would not want others knowing if they themselves had a mental health problem.

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Mental illness is common. It affects thousands of people in Ireland, and their friends, families, work colleagues and society in general. One in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives.

Most people who experience mental health problems recover fully, or are able to live with and manage them, especially if they get help early on.

The Employment Equality Acts, 1998- 2011 protect people from employment discrimination. This includes discrimination in finding a job, keeping a job or doing work experience or vocational training. They also include advertising, equal pay, promotion and dismissal. The Equal Status Acts, 2001-2011 protect people against discrimination when buying or accessing goods and services. This could include discrimination when accessing healthcare, education, social opportunities or while looking for accommodation.

DeCare offer benefits, training and wellness programs that help create ‘Happier Healthier Lives’. These programmes help sustain a healthy work culture that educates, motivates and empowers employees to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyle behaviours.