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AHP Public Health Strategy 2015-2018 Impact Report

Introduction A strategy to develop the capacity, impact and profile of allied health professionals (AHPs) in public health was published in December 2015. It was produced by Public Health England (PHE) and the Allied Health Professions Federation (AHPF) representing the AHP professional bodies1. The strategy set out a vision for the role of AHPs in public health including strategic goals and plans to measure success. The strategy was intended to help AHPs, their professional bodies and partner organisations, to further develop their leadership in public health, share best practice and embed preventative healthcare into roles and services. The vision was for AHPs to be recognised as an integral part of the public health workforce, with responsibility for designing and delivering improvements to health and well-being and reducing health inequalities.
Strategic goals agreed in the strategy were: 1. The future AHP workforce will be fully equipped with the skills, knowledge and attributes to promote the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and populations. 2. AHPs will be able to demonstrate their impact on population level outcomes through robust evaluation and research methods. 3. AHPs will be a go-to public health provider of choice. 4. The excellent relationships that exist between AHPs and strategic public health leaders at local, regional, national and international levels will be fully utilised. 5. Effective leadership at every level will support AHPs to be an integral part of the public health workforce. This report describes the actions and impact across the five goals of the strategy.

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Promoting Mental Health in the Workplace

Step 1: Understand mental health

An employer that understands mental health is better able to support and encourage staff to be more open about their mental health. To fully understand mental health, an employer should:

  • Recognise what mental health is and what mental ill health actually means.
  • Identify the causes of mental ill health in the workplace.
  • Recognise the stigma associated with mental ill health and consider how this can be removed from its workplace.
  • Know its legal obligations to staff.

What is mental health?

Mental health is the mental and emotional state in which we feel able to cope with the normal pressures of everyday life. Positive mental health is rarely an absolute state. Factors both in and out of work affect the mental health of staff and move them up or down a spectrum that ranges from good to poor. For example, an employee may generally have positive mental health but a relationship break up may trigger a period of depression moving them into poor mental health. Alternatively, an employee with a mental health condition, such as depression, may have developed coping strategies that Promoting positive mental health in the workplace are working well and mean they move into having positive mental health.

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Returning to work following long term absence

An indispensable tick list for managers helping employees to have a successful returning to work following longterm absence.

Research shows that the biat workggest barrier to employees returning to work following longterm absence is overcoming their own anxieties around returning to work.

The second biggest barrier is a lack of understanding and support from managers and organisations.

Here’s how you can help overcome those barriers.

During the employee’s absence, the manager should.

  • Regularly communicate with the individual via telephone or email.
  • Regularly communicate work issues with the individual to keep them in the loop.
  • Focus conversations more on the individual’s wellbeing
  • Keep in touch with the individual’s close colleagues with regards to their health.
  • Encourage work colleagues and other members of the organisation to keep in touch with the individual.
  • Make it clear that the individual should not rush back to work.
  • Make it clear that the company will support the individual during their absence.
  • Reassure the individual that their job will be there for them when they return.
  • Prevent the individual from pushing him/herself too much to return to work
  • Explain the return to work process/procedures to the individual before they return work.

When they return

  • Meet the individual on their first day back.
  • Make the individual’s first weeks back at work as low stress as possible.
  • Consider giving the individual lighter duties/ different jobs during their initial return to work.
  • Incorporate a phased return to work for the individual.
  • Remain objective when discussing return to work adaptations for the individual.
  • Explain any changes to the individual’s role, responsibilities and work practices.
  • Ask the individual’s permission to keep the team informed on their needs and return to work.
  • Make the individual feel like they were missed by the organisation.
  • Encourage colleagues to help in the individual’s rehabilitation process.
  • Promote a positive team spirit.
  • Regularly communicate with HR/OH and keep the individual informed.
  • Be proactive in arranging regular meetings to discuss the individual’s condition and the possible impact on their work.
  • Communicate openly.
  • Listens to the individual’s concerns.
  • Understands that, despite looking fine, the individual may still be ill.
  • Appreciate the individual’s wishes.
  • Have an open door policy so the individual can always approach you with any concerns.
  • Adapt your approach to be more sensitive towards the individual.
  • Allow the individual to maintain a certain level of normality.
  • Be quick to respond to the individual via email or telephone when they have a concern.
  • Take responsibility for the individual’s rehabilitation.
  • Acknowledges the impact the individual’s illness has on them.
  • Remain positive with the individual throughout their rehabilitation.
  • Show awareness of your relevant legal responsibilities.
  • Understand the need to make reasonable adjustments by law.
  • Follow the correct organisational procedures.

Seven things I learned from teaching mental health awareness to managers

Any teacher will tell you two things: 1) by far the best way to get to know a subject is to teach it and 2) students have a knack of helping you see your subject from a different perspective. So, here are the top seven things I have learned from a year or so of running mental health awareness courses for managers:

Managers get it

Walking into the first of these courses, I was convinced that getting a group of managers to engage with mental health wasn’t going to be easy. I thought many of them might look on the course as just more HR BS, and that most of them, particularly the men, would probably rather be tasered than talk about things like stress, anxiety and depression. I couldn’t have been more wrong.  In short, these managers showed they got it. They understood that mental health is part of the human condition and that knowing about it and being able to talk about it was only going help them do a better job of managing their staff.

The stats are about right

Having worked in the sector, I have always been just a little wary of the numbers quoted by not-for-profits. So, when I first read the statistic that one in six people in the workplace are experiencing a mental health issue, I was bit sceptical. Was that really true? Were one in six of my colleagues experiencing a problem right now? It didn’t quite stack up with my experience. Now, having run a large number of these courses I can say the figure is about right. On practically every course, two or three out of the dozen attendees have admitted to experiencing some form of mental health issue. 

Suicide isn’t painless

The number the managers coming on these courses found the most shocking wasn’t the one-in-six stat, but a much larger one: 5,821. That’s the number of suicides in the UK in 2017.  When I put it on the screen, there is always a collective intake of breath. And in turn, I was surprised by the number of attendees whose lives have been touched by suicide.  On nearly every course there have been two or three people who have been affected by the loss of a relative, friend or work colleague. Their stories highlighted how much pain and trauma a suicide leaves behind, even in the workplace.  So, the lesson is that we still have a way to go in talking more openly about suicide and being ready to step in to prevent it.

Stories are everything

When my colleagues and I were developing our course we were determined to keep the amount of lecturing and the number of slides to a minimum. We knew that this was a subject where discussion had to be the main route to learning. We certainly got that right. But we underestimated the significance of lived experience. By far the most important element of the course were the “this is how it was for me” moments –people telling their stories of mental health at first hand. Which leads me to number five….

People are more courageous than you think

One of the things that really surprised and impressed me was how willing attendees were to speak about their own experiences of mental health. On nearly every course, two or three people stepped forward and talked openly about their mental health issues – and this in front of a dozen or so of their peers. Their courage has been humbling and uplifting in equal measure. And what it tells me is that this is a mountain we really can move – we can change attitudes and we can normalise being open about mental health in the workplace.

All we have to do is not screw it up!

In these these courses, when I ask the question – Do you agree with this statement: “In general, work is good for your mental health”? – the answer is almost always a resounding “Yes!” And people can very rapidly reel off why it is good for you: it’s the challenge, the sense of purpose, the feeling of achievement, the learning, the belonging, the camaraderie….. It doesn’t take them long to fill a flip chart. So, good mental health at work, is to a large part, about not screwing it up.

Bowls of fruit aren’t enough

I am really impressed how far we have come in the last 10 years. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to believe the extent to which major companies are investing in mental health training. It’s a giant leap in the right direction.  But what I have learned from listening to these managers is that training on its own, and some of the other easy to do wellbeing tactics, like bowls of fruit in the workplace and mindfulness sessions, aren’t quite enough. So, I am looking forward to the next phase of this journey, where we get serious about the harder to do stuff. Like how we structure work, manage relationships and get the level of challenge right, so that everyone has a great day at work, everyday.