Can HR professionals do more about mental health in the workplace?

Sep 24, 2015

One of the UK’s leading human resources professionals believes his peers must do more to encourage open and honest dialogue about mental health.

An HR magazine article by Jabbar Sardar, director of human resources and organisational development at youth advocacy organisation Cafcass, states that the HR profession has remained silent on mental health issues in the workplace for too long.

 ‘’The current culture of ignorance, stereotyping and discrimination of those with mental ill-health has forced too many staff into living in silence, with significant detriment to the individual as well as the business they work for.

‘’HR has a significant role in building a company’s understanding of mental health, and in earning the confidence of its workforce to feel comfortable disclosing conditions they have been diagnosed with,’’ said Mr Sardar.

According to Mr Sardar, HR professionals must focus their attention on making people feel comfortable to speak about their mental health condition without fear of discrimination.

‘’Transparent cultures that encourage equitable treatment must be developed within our businesses. These should allow staff to discuss any problems without fear of negative consequences.  Most employees will identify if an organisation has this type of culture based on how the company manages its leaders’ mental health problems,’’ Mr Sardar added.

The Buddy Franklin effect

The recent example commended by beyondblue Chairman Jeff Kennett  – Sydney Swans Football Club, where prominent player Buddy Franklin was given time off for mental health related conditions – highlights this effectively. Rather than cover up his absence, the Swans were open in discussing his condition, supporting him in his recovery, and reinforcing that his wellbeing was the club’s priority. This approach will transcend the club, providing others with the encouragement that mental health issues can be discussed, knowing they will receive support rather than face stigma.

Mr Kennett said an individual's whole health is, after an organisation’s commitment to good governance, every employer's and employees’ first responsibility.

‘’Franklin's decision will send a very clear message to other young people. If you are not well, seek help early. Get better and then return to your sport and chosen profession in a much healthier and happier place,’’ Mr Kennett said.

  • Read Jeff Kennett’s full statement
  • Thinking about disclosing a mental health condition at your workplace? Read this first.

 Heads Up resources for HR professionals

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