A report last year found that one in four young women in the UK has experienced mental health problems. Meanwhile, high-profile figures including Lady Gaga and Prince Harry are using their platforms to raise awareness of mental health issues on a global level.
We're getting better at talking about mental health, but a lingering stigma remains, especially at work – where our desire to "act professional" at all times can cause us to bottle up problems that could be shared and treated.
So it's definitely time to get behind a new campaign urging the Prime Minister to improve mental health support in the workplace.
An open letter signed by more than 50 business leaders from companies including PwC, Royal Mail and WH Smith calls on Theresa May to amend Health and Safety legislation so that employers are required to provide mental health first aid on exactly the same level as physical first aid.
"Success will ensure employees across the country can access a trained staff member to receive initial support and guidance if they are dealing with a mental health issue at work," the letter states. "Success will ensure every employee has the right to a mentally healthy environment. Success will mean we can finally break the stigma of mental health in the workplace."
The campaign spearheaded by Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA) is actually calling on the Prime Minister to implement changes she has already promised. Her election manifesto included a pledge to "amend health and safety regulations so that employers provide appropriate first aid training and needs assessment for mental health, as they currently do for risks to physical health".
"The change in legislation we are calling for will establish a baseline for protecting mental health in the workplace, ensuring no one is left behind," MHFA's Chief Operating Officer Fionuala Bonnar said in a statement.
"This is just one part of improving approaches to workplace mental health, but it represents an important step forward. Ensuring that first aid support is there for the millions of people who struggle with their mental health every year will make a big difference to how we all think about our health as a whole."
The open letter points out that there is a sound financial basis – as well as the obvious moral one – for improving mental health support in the workplace. Mental health problems at work cost the UK economy nearly £35 billion last year, the Centre for Mental Health has said.
MHFA is also urging people to sign a petition (which has already been delivered to Downing Street with more than 200,000 signatures) to make it compulsory for companies to have a mental health first aider at work.
The petition's creator Natasha Devon sums up the situation pretty much perfectly when she writes: "By making it easier for people to talk about their mental health at work and by training colleagues on site who know where to point people to get the help, we could dramatically improve the mental well-being of the country."
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