Healthcare workers across the UK are reporting increased instances of mental health problems. The extraordinary circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and other recent pressures on the sector have resulted in record levels of stress, anxiety and depression among healthcare workers.
Our healthcare workers need support to help them cope with the mental health impact of their work. This article examines how managers and employers can encourage positive mental health for healthcare workers.
Is There a Mental Health Crisis in the UK Healthcare Industry?
More than 45% of ICU workers in the UK stated that they suffered from anxiety, depression, PTSD or substance abuse issues, according to a recent study from the Society of Occupational Medicine. Almost 13% of respondents reported that they had had suicidal thoughts or considered self-harm. Another study said that UK healthcare workers had significantly elevated stress levels, with 73% of respondents meeting moderate to severe stress criteria.
The mental health impact of their work is forcing many people out of the healthcare industry altogether. More than 42,400 employees left the healthcare sector in the last quarter of 2022 – the highest rate of people leaving the industry in over a decade. More than one in every nine nurses had left the profession by the year ending June of 2022.
According to a poll from YouGov:
- 9% of UK workers are considering leaving the sector
- 39% said they were going because of work issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic
- 57% cited that they were unsatisfied with pay and benefits
- 38% stated that their work/life balance needed to be more satisfactory
- 30% reported leaving the sector because of mental health concerns
What Legal Responsibilities Do Healthcare Employers Have?
Employers and managers in the healthcare sector have a duty of care to their employees. They must take reasonable and appropriate steps to ensure a safe working environment. Employers must also act to protect their employees’ physical and mental well-being.
Given the ongoing mental health crisis in the UK healthcare industry, employers are well advised to implement organisational changes to improve mental health for healthcare workers. These duties are enshrined under UK law in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Failure to abide by these regulations can result in severe penalties, including unlimited fines or imprisonment.
How to Improve Mental Health for Healthcare Workers
Many employers and managers in the healthcare industry need help addressing their staff’s mental health concerns and reducing the mental health impact of their work. Healthcare is, by its nature, an extremely stressful and demanding industry. However, some measures can be taken to improve healthcare workers’ mental health.
Improve Working Conditions for Healthcare Workers
One of the most significant and essential changes that managers and employers in the healthcare industry can make is to improve the working conditions for their employees.
Understaffing issues must be addressed. Staff should be given regular breaks. Shifts should be arranged reasonably. Ensuring that work is distributed among all staff is critical to avoiding burnout and helping people maintain a satisfactory work/life balance.
Provide Mental Health Support Services for Healthcare Workers
It can be difficult for people, even those working in the healthcare industry, to know how to get help for mental health problems. Employers can assist their employees get the support they need by offering access to mental health services such as counsellors or therapists. Staff should be given information on accessing self-help techniques, online resources and other social support networks.
One of the major stressors for workers in the healthcare industry is the ongoing exposure to COVID-19. All staff should be encouraged to report any COVID-19 symptoms. They must be allowed to take time off to recuperate and recover if they test positive. They should always have access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks and disinfectants.
Encourage Mental Health Awareness in the Workplace
Employers and managers should develop a plan to encourage more mental health awareness at work. Many people fail to seek treatment for their issues due to mental health stigma.
Managers should learn active listening skills and work to provide as much support for their staff as possible. It is crucial to encourage staff to speak openly about their problems and let them know they can do so in a safe and confidential environment. The team should have dedicated areas where they can freely talk about the mental health impact of their work.
Colleagues should be encouraged to support each other and receive training to help them recognise the signs of mental health issues in themselves and others. Many workplaces designate staff members to act as dedicated mental health support workers.
How to Access Online Mental Health Awareness Training
Providing your staff with mental health awareness training can help to remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Managers receiving mental health awareness training can better identify staff issues and provide support when required. Employees who receive mental health training report feeling more supported by their managers and more able to report problems they are experiencing.
Our Mental Health Awareness Training gives participants a good understanding of the importance of maintaining good mental well-being. Trainees learn to recognise the signs of poor mental health in themselves and others. It’s an ideal way to break the stigma surrounding mental health problems at work. It can help create a healthier, happier and more productive workplace.