Mental Health Training

Health & Wellbeing at Work 2019, By Jane McNeice

Posted by on 7 Mar, 2019 in Mental Health |

Health & Wellbeing at Work 2019, By Jane McNeice

Having attended the Health & Wellbeing at Work event at Birmingham NEC since my first visit in 2009, I’ve watched it evolve from its early pre-recession days and pre-mental health ‘wake-up’ to what I’ve experienced this week at the 13th annual event.

During the last 13 years I’ve mostly attended as a delegate, exhibiting once with a previous company, and this year for the first time with my own training company Mind Matters. Me, and one of my Associate Trainers Gemma Davies brought along some information about our Mental Health First Aid and the many other courses that we offer, and a few ‘freebies’ which went down really well, particularly our #MindMattersMike pens – I think Gemma used the word ‘mobbed’ at least once during day one!

It was great to hear Dame Carol Black once again in her keynote address ‘Healthier Tomorrow – Here yet?’

Dame Carol has now completed 3 reviews for Government, and is currently working on the 4th, describing the last 13 years as a ‘journey’ one that we too have shared with her and are indeed still working on. It was great to hear that the independent review of scientific evidence carried out by Waddell & Burton (2006) is still significantly cited and remains robust around the subject area. Dame Carol identified a number of employment/work factors standing in the way of good health, including:

  • Culture and belief
  • Fit-note reform
  • Early intervention
  • GPs not going as far as she would like to see e.g. work as a clinical outcome
  • Research base still not strong enough

Dame Carol emphasised the difference we could have made had we focussed with equal (or more) measure on work sickness absence 13 years ago rather than the greater focus on sickness claimants and work capability assessments. Dame Carol did highlight an increase in the uptake of Occupational Health services and of her work states, “I wish I’d done more on the next generation” particularly focussing on young workers and transition into work.

A shift that I was personally delighted to hear about was that there had been success in persuading the GMC that all new GPs will need to be able to ‘describe the principles of holding a fitness for work conversation’ as part of their qualifying studies. Having worked on an NHS project between 2008-2012 where I spent a great deal of time and effort encouraging GPs to recognise and appreciate the positive health-work relationship and to talk to patients about this – largely to no avail with the exception of a few forward thinkers – it was music to my ears! All medical schools will now have to include this.

Dame Carol referred to some valuable research drawing out a number of significant issues as causes and outcomes of the fact that we are very much still on the journey:

  • Performance and productivity (where the UK is not the amongst the best)
  • Poor leadership and low Board engagement
  • Lack of workplace data
  • Mental ill health and its associations, amongst others.

Research including 400+ organisations revealed a number of risk factors:

  • Life-style – Insufficient sleep
  • Clinical risk – cholesterol
  • Mental wellbeing risk – depression

A longitudinal study of the same found that managing these risks can significantly reduce days lost.

Salient points coming out of Dame Carol Black’s keynote were:

  • Impact of life choices
  • Impact of problem sleep
  • Impact of stress, anxiety, and depression
    • Sleep, finances, bullying, physical inactivity, managers behaviour, etc.
  • The need to develop a ‘Strain-Reducing’ company culture
  • Several groups still often being ignored, and Dame Carol Black drew out ‘women’ as one of these (in light of International Women’s Day this week), with some startling statistics around pension values and gender, women negatively impacted significantly compared to their male counterparts, with 75% of women also experiencing negativity around pregnancy. Specific risks for women included:
    • MSK in later years
    • Caring
    • Menopause
    • Depression
    • Pensions
  • Need for leadership Board engagement and line manager responsibilities

Dame Carol referred to the new NHS framework which has been developed over the last 3 years, focussing on a number of the aforementioned areas. Seventy-three organisations are using the framework, including 10 ambulance trusts, 12 improvement sites, 15 trusts facing challenges in the last year, and 36 fast-tracked.

Three tasks that Dame Carol regards as needed for the future are: more research; focus on young workers and transition into work; and health incentives.

As for our own exhibitor experience, we had some really positive engagement, and our ‘elephant in the room’ also paid us a visit on day one, where a number of delegates pledged to stamp out mental health stigma. We’ve had some interesting and valuable discussions over the two days, met up with some inspiring people who share the journey with us, and a few friends we’ve not seen for a while. We also had the privilege of meeting Mark Poole the new Mindful Employer Lead.

It was so positive to see that since 2009 when I first encountered the Health & Wellbeing at Work event, where there would have been only one or two names in mental health exhibiting, we now had an exhibition hall full of people promoting mental health interventions that can make a positive difference to people’s lives. Mental health is well and truly on the map, but I too agree with Dame Carol Black’s sentiments that we are very much still on that journey.

We look forward to working with a number of the businesses and individuals that we met, and hope to see you all there next year!