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Thread: Mental Health in the Workplace (and MHFA)

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    Mental Health in the Workplace (and MHFA)

    As you may or may not be aware there are two things that are hot at the moment in FTSE 100/250 companies and they are diversity (not for this thread) and mental heath, which I'd like to discuss here.

    I haven't properly formulated an opinion on this yet, but my spidey senses were tingling when the topic became more and more of a hot one, culminating in them going off the scale when I saw that over half a million people had been 'trained' in England as MHFA since 2009.

    For those that don't know, MHFA stands for Mental Health First Aiders, with the principle being that (after a 2 day training course) these volunteer normal employees (doing any job in a company) are on hand to spot people struggling with mental health issues and talk them through the options (speak to a professional) should the subject arise while they are carrying out their role.

    I work for a FTSE 250 company and have today been on a training course about Mental Health awareness hosted by the charity Mind. The day started innocuously enough, with us splitting into groups to discuss the signs of what good mental health looked like and what bad mental health looked like. Now my first comment was that there may be no signs of bad mental health as it doesn't always work that way as far as my limited understanding goes, but we're just starting the day so with an open mind I go with it.

    After the break we're then looking at what anxiety is, what depression is, what stress is and how to manage your (mental mostly) well-being. This stuff was quite straight forward, but as an awareness tool you couldn't fault it and if everyone was paying attention they should have understood. At this stage I'm thinking maybe I was being harsh with my scepticism, but then the afternoon hits and Oh.My.God.

    We sit back down and first slide up is 'how discussing mental health in the workplace needn't be difficult', which came with loads of hints about how to couch the questions you ask in appropriate language and that you should always say to the person you're talking to that you'll keep whatever they say in confidence. At this point I asked what if what they tell you is that they harm themselves and they have suicidal thoughts constantly? What am I meant to do with that and how do I keep that confidential? The answer I got back was less than satisfactory, being something along the lines of you wouldn't be betraying a confidence if you escalated that sort of thing to the appropriate people. I'm sure the person who has told me in confidence will feel that way.

    Other than my Mum having debilitating OCD I've thankfully never really had that much experience of actual mental heath issues, but I do see them as something to be taken seriously and not to be marshalled by a volunteer force (which will include ill equipped people at best and absolute wrong headed morons at worst).

    What also struck me as well throughout the day was that there seemed to be a conflating of well-being (e.g. looking after your work life balance), milder mental health issues and serious mental health issues, which frankly I found absolutely irresponsible. I'm no expert in this field, I'm Yevrah, but it strikes me that someone suffering the effects from a bad work life balance can take fluffy steps to mitigate the mental health impact from that, while someone who is suffering from undiagnosed Bipolar disorder, for example, is going to need a lot more than their boss armed with a 7 hour training course and a muppet from marketing armed with their two day certificate to be of any use whatsoever to them. But worse than that, any advice wrongly given might have disastrous consequences. Well-being might be a mental health issue, but my feeling is is that it's about as linked to extreme mental health problems as flu is to stage 4 lung cancer.

    For me, if the day had stuck to well-being I'd have had no problem with it as I think senior staff members (of which I am fortunate enough to be one) should take the well-being of their staff seriously, but when it veers into discussions over how to talk to people about their mental health, when you have no idea and are not remotely prepared for what the answer might be, then I think you're on really dodgy ground and frankly involved in something that (as a complete amateur, certificate or not) you potentially shouldn't be anywhere near.

    Exponents of workplace mental health awareness often cite that you wouldn't question someone's level of well-being if they had a physical injury, such as a broken leg, and that people who suffer from mental health issues could be just as unwell but you can't see it. That's all well and good, but you can't have it both ways and I wouldn't seek or welcome advice from Bob in Purchase Ledger if I had broken my leg - I'd either be in hospital having it seen to by a medical professional or ignoring it because I don't want to see a medical professional. In either case I fail to see what Bob will bring to the table.

    My feeling is that more extreme mental illnesses are brought into the equation (bipolar was mentioned) because it adds more heft to the subject and more validity to the concept of MHFA, for which there is no tangible evidence for the benefit of beyond raising awareness.

    http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrhtm/rr1135.htm

    The courses do however cost £300 a pop, so someone somewhere has raked in £150m of revenue at what I suspect is a fucking good margin and while Mind are a charity their presenters are not and are free to explore whatever business ventures they like.

    Appreciate this post is a little rambling (and fucking long), but while I'm no moral crusader this has got my goat as I feel it's not doing much, if anything, to solve the mental health issues we have as a society, is belittling the serious and life-threatening ones by conflating them with well-being and is propagating exploitative business practices that people are all to eager to go along with because, well, "it's a good thing, right?".

    What's your view on this? If I'm wrong (in any aspect) then please disabuse me of my wrong-headed notions and if I'm right, please tell me where/how I am so I can form a more coherent argument to keep MHFA (that sit so uncomfortably with me) out of the business I work for.

    Thanks for reading.

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    Custom User Title phonics's Avatar
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    My company (and I think all Swiss companies are obligated to) provides us an independent number we can call with any issues, mental/financial/work-related etc. and they can be independently assessed and then dealt with which I think is a much better idea than me going up to my boss to tell him/her that 'I'm just not up to it'.

    I got several free therapy sessions and a small loan when I had a mini-breakdown over debt I'd accumulated. My boss quit recently so I asked her about it, they didn't even know.

    The problem with mental health is that because it's been so underfunded for so long that a bunch of charlatans have slipped in. This summing up my thoughts quite nicely:

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    Won the Old Board Lewis's Avatar
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    We had a briefing on it and all came to pretty much the same opinion on it being wank. Also, if a job makes you mentally ill, you shouldn't be doing it.

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    I also work for a FTSE top 250 company and health and well-being has been a big topic of conversation. Iím actually an employee communications rep so I, amongst others, quarterly meet with HR to discuss various issues raised by employees.

    Iím pretty skeptic of the health and well-being attitude of my company. Weíve seen an uptick in the number of people off for stress or other mental health issues. Iíve seen it first hand from both my mum (driving herself to early retirement) and sister (having to leaving behind her trained profession).

    I think we have a societal issue. But nowhere near to the degree of the likes of japan. Companies are all too willing to allow, almost expect, employees to forgo a work life balance in favour of company gain.

    I personally do not believe I have the competence to support mental health. I think the key for me if just education of awareness, how to spot signs and having clear lines of communication to enable employees avenues to approach, at their wish, help and not be discouraged by potential career progression.

    I think the first step is personal responsibility. Training individuals to know that saying no when youíre busy is ok and if thereís too much on, ask for help and let deadlines slip.

    Kudos for you going on the training course. Hopefully you can recognise signs and help balance working load of your staff more effectively. As to being an effective counsellor, I wouldnít advocate that. Iíd always seek additional support if you have concerns. It is tough though.

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    Senior Member Giggles's Avatar
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    If I told my boss I was mental I’d be out the door before I finished the sentence.

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    Thatís a terrible structured response Iím afraid. Posting on my phone isnít great.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lewis View Post
    We had a briefing on it and all came to pretty much the same opinion on it being wank. Also, if a job makes you mentally ill, you shouldn't be doing it.
    This is the other issue I have with it as well. All of these measures are taken after the horse has bolted, are essentially free (£300 per head won't touch the sides for a FTSE 100/250 company) and essentially abdicate responsibility for causing the problem in the first place. Oh and nefarious arse holes take their cut as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Foe View Post
    Kudos for you going on the training course. Hopefully you can recognise signs and help balance working load of your staff more effectively.
    Thanks, but I think I do that anyway, under the guise of (hopefully) not being a shit boss who appreciates that people shouldn't be living at work and I can do it without referencing mental health at all, let alone going down the rabbit hole of mental illness, that I know the square root of fuck all about.

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    Senior Member Spikey M's Avatar
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    Having a Mental Heath issue is this generations eyebrow slits. Top Mark's for the Vegan lad with 3 genders and 4 Mental Helth Conditions. It's a load of shit in the majority of cases and I feel for the genuine cases that get overlooked because every cunt has 'depression and anxiety'.

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    Senior Member Jimmy Floyd's Avatar
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    They're just covering their arses. Same with diversity.

    Mental health is not workplace-specific, and as such I'm not sure an employer should be expected to do more than understand the issues at play. If I'm wrong and there is such a thing as workplace-specific mental health, well, I'd need that explained to me.

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    Custom User Title phonics's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Floyd View Post
    If I'm wrong and there is such a thing as workplace-specific mental health, well, I'd need that explained to me.
    Workplace culture definitely affects mental health. Not all companies are the same, look at the difference between your current office and the Koreans.

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    Senior Member Jimmy Floyd's Avatar
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    It affects it, but mental health exists independently of the workplace. It's not like, say, workplace bullying, which is something that exists solely in the workplace paradigm and can be dealt with as such.

    If somebody has poor mental health, partially or wholly as a result of workplace issues, would you then want the workplace to be responsible for addressing that poor mental health? I'm not sure I would.

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    Senior Member Spikey M's Avatar
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    I'm pretty sure bullying exists outside of the work place too.

    As for the second point; if it was demonstrable that the work place was a cause, and that reasonable steps could be taken to stop it, then absolutely.
    Last edited by Spikey M; 23-09-2019 at 07:08 PM.

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    Custom User Title phonics's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Floyd View Post
    If somebody has poor mental health, partially or wholly as a result of workplace issues, would you then want the workplace to be responsible for addressing that poor mental health? I'm not sure I would.
    Hence, see my original post.

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    Luckily ours was more focused around the claimant so it was all about awareness of their conditions rather than trying to spot Steve in Accounting's secret cutting. As I'm on the phone to claimants regularly, I need to know how to communicate with them and diffuse certain situations. I got what I needed but there's a couple of dodgy suggestions from the woman running the course. She's got bi-polar so she was bouncing off the walls for the entire thing and her best advice for a claimant threatening suicide was, "Ask them what their plan is."

    I am never taking that risk. Also, if a bi-polar claimant agrees to turn up to an appointment, I'm booking them in, regardless of whether I think they're in a good mood or not.

    As for the workplace, it's a room full of strangers. I don't care enough and the first aider we have took the job on to talk but not act.

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    Isn't he banned? Baz's Avatar
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    I’m a MHFA.
    I'm a twit

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    Senior Member niko_cee's Avatar
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    Case closed.

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    Senior Member Gray Fox's Avatar
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    My place not long ago appealed to the staff for applications to become a MHFA. We weren't really given any further information than it was a course. Given that I'm a sort of Rep for the workers at the place I thought I'd be one of the people most likely to be chosen, but it seems it's more the other way for that one. Though given that, I know most people on site(there's close to 1,400 people on the books) at least by name. I was waiting to see how people who went on said course found it.

    For clarity, I work at a warehouse ran by one of the larger companies in the country and most of those people are barely above minimum wage. A lot of these people are stuck and feel pretty shit about it. We've also just been told that, even though the place is at essentially capacity for the size of the warehouse, we are approaching peak time and as such need to find near 20% more product going out the door. As such they'll be piling on the pressure to the little guys.

    So levels of stress are pretty high. Not like we haven't already had suicides in the past as well. 1 guy infront of a train and the other took himself and a rope off to his room whilst his wife and kids were downstairs.

    I'd be absolutely horrified if someone who was even close to making a decision like that went to anyone in the place for help. The management blatantly seem to not care and are so out of touch that I'd maybe be more worried if they did. Whereas the guys taking this course, if it's anything similar to Yev has experienced, will be in no way prepared for what may come at them, with the above being worst case potential.

    There's also the potential for a domino effect. Imagine someone who was suicidal turned to a MHFA, who after the 2 day course is still somehow unprepared to deal with this and the person ends up going through with their act. Said MHFA is going to be crushed and may end up with their own problems because of it.

    Now my place is big enough to justify having an actual professional on site, however given that all they care about is the bottom line, I doubt they ever will.

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    Senior Member Boydy's Avatar
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    Dan shouldn't be using twitter at work. Unless he works from home, which he does.

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    Senior Member randomlegend's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yevrah View Post
    As you may or may not be aware there are two things that are hot at the moment in FTSE 100/250 companies and they are diversity (not for this thread) and mental heath, which I'd like to discuss here...
    The mental health services in this country are fucked to a level you literally won't believe unless you've had first-hand experience of them. I guess stuff like this is someone's desperate and misguided attempt to bail out the sinking ship.

    I've seen similar stuff (less visible to the general public) when I was a student. As an example, the Child and Adult Mental Health services (CAMHS) have targets they have to meet with regards to waiting times. CAMHS in Norfolk cannot possibly meet them, so they started employing "Mental Health Practitioners" to be the first person to see the kids and therefore get them off the waiting list with regards to the targets. I don't mean to belittle those people - who can be nurses, social workers, occupational therapists - but they clearly weren't able to actually deal with/treat a lot of what they were presented with. The kids then go onto a separate waiting list to see an actual psychiatrist, which as I remember was about 2 years long when I was there. I'm sure it's not just Norfolk where this is happening either, although it is the worst service in the country.

    That said I think a bit of mental health awareness is in general a good thing, but as you've intimated this goes far beyond that. It's really not that far different from realising you've not trained enough GPs by a factor of ten so you start sending people on courses to advise people on their arthritis so they don't go to the doctors.
    Last edited by randomlegend; 23-09-2019 at 09:27 PM.

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    Custom User Title phonics's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randomlegend View Post
    The mental health services in this country are fucked to a level you literally won't believe unless you've had first-hand experience of them. I guess stuff like this is someone's desperate and misguided attempt to bail out the sinking ship.
    No it's not, it's to avoid lawsuits. By putting something in place, no matter how ineffective it prevents your corp. from being held accountable.

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    Senior Member randomlegend's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phonics View Post
    No it's not, it's to avoid lawsuits. By putting something in place, no matter how ineffective it prevents your corp. from being held accountable.
    That's not the motivation of Mind though.

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    Custom User Title phonics's Avatar
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    No it's the motivation of the company that brings Mind in. When I worked for a FTSE 100, we used NGOs like them all the time to cover our arses from suits.

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    On a tangent to diversify: My gaff has a target for %population women in grade x positions.

    I seemingly committed career suicide by implying that by putting a target number against it to track progress you would encourage positive discrimination. Effectively doing the opposite of what was done over 30 years, over a 3-5 year period. Two negatives equal a positive?

    The party line will always be ďpromoted on meritĒ. But behind closed doors, you know fine well if thereís an opportunity to promote a diverse candidate to pad the stars, itíll happen.

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    Senior Member mugbull's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Foe View Post
    On a tangent to diversify: My gaff has a target for %population women in grade x positions.

    I seemingly committed career suicide by implying that by putting a target number against it to track progress you would encourage positive discrimination. Effectively doing the opposite of what was done over 30 years, over a 3-5 year period. Two negatives equal a positive?

    The party line will always be “promoted on merit”. But behind closed doors, you know fine well if there’s an opportunity to promote a diverse candidate to pad the stars, it’ll happen.
    These targets are the most effective way to kill an equality movement dead in its tracks. If the average person knew statistics to any reasonable level it would be obvious workplace quotas are a terrible idea. Arguably not as much of a problem in schools, and with far more benefits, so I don't really have a problem with affirmative action there, but at work it's idiocy

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    Webly Ian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Foe View Post
    On a tangent to diversify: My gaff has a target for %population women in grade x positions.

    I seemingly committed career suicide by implying that by putting a target number against it to track progress you would encourage positive discrimination. Effectively doing the opposite of what was done over 30 years, over a 3-5 year period. Two negatives equal a positive?

    The party line will always be ďpromoted on meritĒ. But behind closed doors, you know fine well if thereís an opportunity to promote a diverse candidate to pad the stars, itíll happen.
    You're not wrong but then people really do pick and choose which bullshit reasons for promotions they deem to be more acceptable.

    Incompetent men have been getting jobs they haven't earned because they know which balls to metaphorically tickle and the response is irritation and a "well that's the world we live in" shrugging of the shoulders.

    An incompetent [demographic box-checker] gets the job and there is much righteous indignation.

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    Isn't he banned? Baz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by niko_cee View Post
    Case closed.
    I'm a twit

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