DIRECTORS at two prominent West Yorkshire firms have come together to encourage business leaders across the region to recognise the importance of mental health awareness training in the workplace as Mental Health Awareness Week gets under way (May 14-20)

Gavin Howarth, managing director at Howarths People & Safety Management in Cleckheaton and Phil Constantine, operations manager at Leeds-based Vickers Laboratories are calling for businesses to be aware of the negative impact that failing to equip senior leadership teams and managers with skills to identify and address mental health issues in the workplace could have.

Mr Howarth said: “Mental ill health in the workplace is a growing issue. It’s estimated that one-in-six working age adults experience depression, anxiety or stress-related illness at any one time, costing the UK business economy an estimated £70b to £100 billion every year and resulting in around 70 million lost working days.

“It goes without saying that good mental health and wellbeing are vital to business performance, as content, healthy employees are more engaged, motivated and – ultimately - more productive.”

Vickers Laboratories, which manufactures chemicals for the contact lens, education and food and drink sectors among others, has recently invested in mental health awareness training for its entire senior management team, in partnership with Howarths.

Mr Constantine added: “All businesses, not just ours, need to create awareness amongst senior leadership teams in particular, so they can understand and identify the signs of ill mental health within their teams at an early stage, before the natural stresses of work potentially make it an unbearable situation.

“If employees have physical injuries, we help them. It should be no different for mental health issues, and with effective awareness training, as managers we can do our best to provide support and offer potential options to assist with recovery."

Mr Howarth said employers have a legal duty of care towards their staff when addressing mental health issues.

He said: “Training leadership teams and line managers to have the tools to create a positive working environment can give those individuals the confidence to tackle the issue effectively yet sensitively, while creating an open and transparent culture where employees feel empowered to speak up and share their concerns, hopefully achieving a positive outcome for everyone involved.”