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Support for mental wellbeing vital for resilient workplaces

14th October 2013

Support for mental wellbeing in the workplace is vital if businesses and employers are to build strong and resilient workforces – that was the message as Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health (Niamh) Chief Executive Peter McBride was joined by DETI Minister Arlene Foster MLA to launch the ‘Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace’ joint ECNI initiative at Parliament Buildings on World Mental Health Day.

The event, which was hosted by Sue Ramsay MLA and Jim Wells MLA, also heard from Isabella Goldie, Health of Mental Health Foundation Scotland and Dr Bill Jenkinson, Director of Occupational Health, Bombardier.

Health and Safety Minister Arlene Foster said: "More and more, employers are recognising that good mental health means good business. A happy, healthy and motivated workforce can be a decisive factor in what is an increasingly competitive marketplace. The Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland are to be commended for initiating the ‘Workplace’ strand of the ‘Change Your Mind’ campaign. Changing the public perceptions surrounding mental health will help safeguard the wellbeing of employees – both in and out of the workplace.”

The joint initiative, which will be managed in co-operation with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, includes co-training, resource packs and awareness raising sessions with networks of employers, including the retail and hospitality industries.

Professor Peter McBride, Niamh Chief Executive said: "Providing support for mental wellbeing in the workplace is critical for any employer who wants to build a resilient workforce. The challenges of both the wider economic environment and corresponding increase in pressure at individual workplaces means that supporting mental health of employees is today more important than ever.

"Providing support and services which people in the workplace can use confidentially results in improved wellbeing among workforces and stronger, more resilient organisations. It also provides a pathway allowing those who may require further counselling to receive appropriate care,” he added.

The launch event followed an earlier seminar hosting HR professionals from across Northern Ireland which included showcases of good practice from local businesses including Bombardier, Firmus Energy, Schrader Electronics, Legal Island, Antrim Borough Council and Newtownabbey Council.

Speaking at the event Isabella Goldie from the Mental Health Foundation in Scotland, said: "I am delighted to be invited to speak at the world mental health day event hosted by NIAMH in Belfast. Work has a vital role to play in protecting mental health across society. Good quality work can help build self-esteem and resilience. It gives us a purpose, a valued identity and often a social network. Employment status also determines our quality of life from childhood through to later life

"The cost to employers of not only absenteeism but also of a workforce who are less productive and creative as a result of being paralysed by stress is enormous. It therefore is in all of our interests across society to invest in the creation of equal, fair and mentally healthy workplaces,” she added.

Professor McBride continued: "Today’s events are part of Niamh’s ongoing anti-stigma campaign ‘Change Your Mind’. Unfortunately, the levels of negative attitudes towards people who experience mental ill-health continue to rise in Northern Ireland. Surveys have shown that 1 in 4 people are uncomfortable having someone who experiences mental ill-health as a work colleague or a neighbour, and 1 in 3 are uncomfortable having this person as an in-law.

"It is therefore important that we redouble our efforts to create optimal work environments for all, including people who experience mental ill-health,” he added.

Further details can be found at www.niamh.co.uk



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