IT shouldn’t be a taboo subject.

Mental health probably affects more people than we know so it is imperative that we continue to raise the profile of the condition and demonstrate the importance of dealing with it.

Steps are already being taken to recognise mental health in the workplace; Thriving at Work, an independent review of mental health and employers by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer, sets out what employers can do to better support all employees, including those with mental health problems, to remain in and thrive through work.

The review includes a detailed analysis exploring the significant cost of poor mental health to UK businesses and the economy as a whole. Poor mental health costs employers between £33 billion and £42 billion a year, with an annual cost to the UK economy of between £74 billion and £99 billion.

Kim Shutler-Jones, chief executive officer of the Shipley-based mental health charity, The Cellar Trust, says mental health in the workplace has always existed but more people are prepared to talk about it.

“More people are coming forward and being prepared to talk about their struggles with mental health.”

According to Kim, changes in the economic climate can have a significant impact on people’s mental health.

“Employers are expecting more for less, people leave and aren’t replaced and if there is redundancy there is job insecurity. People are anxious about whether their jobs are safe.”

Public sector cuts are also leading to increased pressure on staff who are meeting increasing public service demands and, from the private sector’s point of view, small businesses may be concerned about the future.

“But if it wasn’t for work people would still struggle with mental health in the same way they would physical health. Even if you have a perfect supportive workplace there are still people in the workplace who struggle with their mental health,” explains Kim.

The key factor is having a supportive workplace.”We all have mental health - and just like our physical health – it is on a spectrum and can fluctuate at any time. Looking after the mental health of employees isn’t rocket science. It is about creating an environment where people can be supported to perform to the best of their abilities. Most of that is good management practice. That support will be different depending on the individual but the first step is having an environment at work where people can ask for help if they are struggling.”

The Cellar Trust supports people who are employed but off on long term sick due to mental health problems. Its Job Retention Service offers free, tailored support. which can include working with employers to support people back to work, or - alternatively - finding a new job.

For three or four years Dion Magyar was out of work. Thanks to The Cellar Trust - and his employers at Tong Garden centre - the horticultural apprentice is now nurturing a successful career.

The 29-year-old, who has mental health issues, initially secured his work placement at Tong Garden Centre through The Cellar Trust.

For Dion it has been life-changing and he can’t thank the charity, or his employers enough for their continued support. “It helps me keep well and it is good to have a strong workforce like Tong Garden Centre looking after me. They have supported me in my apprenticeship; they are supporting me and keeping me well at work.”

Testimony to his success, Dion was awarded a customer services award last month.

“I am learning now; I am learning a different trade. I cannot thank the Cellar Trust enough. They have helped get me into employment and sustain employment and a big thank you to Tong Garden Centre for giving me the chance.”

Tong Garden Centre managing director, Mark Farnsworth, explains how they became involved with the charity after it was nominated as their chosen charity of the year.

“Mental health is an issue that has been beneath the radar and everyone has been nervous about talking about it, but now it is coming the fore, quite rightly, and we are addressing it as a society.”

He says The Cellar Trust helps people get back on their feet and to be self sufficient again and Tong Garden Centre is proud to play a part in that. Mark also praised Dion, and his fellow colleagues at Tong Garden Centre for their support.

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