The organisational management of occupational and traumatic stress
The impact of poor mental health on the UK economy staff reportedly costs industry up to £100 billion per year. This impact results from both absenteeism and poor levels of occupational function which is known as presenteeism. In safety critical settings poor functionality, from mental health causes or otherwise, can lead to highly serious outcomes. While only a minority of individuals exposed to occupational or traumatic stress are likely to develop formal mental health problems, both absenteeism and presenteeism place pressure on colleagues and on an affected organisation’s welfare or occupational health services, as well as affecting overall organisational morale.
So what can be done to mitigate the risk of occupational stress and mental health issues in the workplace? Prevention, detection and treatment are key. Prevention can include having a robust occupational stress policy in place, this can help to remove the stigma associated with mental health. It also sets out clear practices and processes to support staff and demonstrates a legal duty of care. Good leadership also helps to prevent and mitigate mental health problems in the workplace. Training and briefings specifically for managers and those in supportive roles can help them to recognise and manage mental health issues in the workplace.
Peer support programmes such as Trauma Risk Management, which was first introduced by the UK Military, are particularly effective in empowering organisations to deliver psychological first aid. Years of good science and research have proven this.
Peer support can be used not only for traumatic situations but for day-to-day occupational stress, training staff to identify the signs of psychological distress and ensuring they are signposted to help as required. Indeed, psychological monitoring can also be used to detect mental health difficulties and ensure help is sought before absenteeism and presenteeism become significant.
Professor Neil Greenberg will be talking at the IOSH conference on the 17 June at 10am.
Professor Neil Greenberg is an academic psychiatrist based at King’s College London UK and a consultant occupational and forensic psychiatrist. He also runs March on Stress, a psychological health consultancy specialising in occupational stress, psychological first aid and trauma risk management. Neil served in the United Kingdom Armed Forces for more than 23 years and deployed, as a psychiatrist and researcher, to a number of hostile environments including Afghanistan and Iraq. Neil is the current President of the UK Psychological Trauma Society.
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