Mental health at work: Looking after yourself and your staff

The last 10 years have seen a huge leap in the public’s understanding of mental health accompanied by a reduction in stigma. Charities have played an important part in both these advances. Time to Change, the joint anti-stigma campaign from Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, estimate that 4.1 million people have better attitudes to mental ill health since the launch of their campaign. The Heads Together Campaign, part of The Royal Foundation, has also helped to change conversation about mental health, with 1.5 million people saying they had talked more about mental health as a result.

This increase in understanding and the resultant growing profile for mental health both in the media and among policy makers has rightfully brought about wider discussion about mental health in the workplace. Last year a government-commissioned report revealed that over 300,000 people with a long-term mental health problem lose their job each year.

Our sector and mental health

Like many other sectors, there are statistics that suggest that charities could be doing better at supporting mental health at work for their staff and volunteers. Research conducted by The Guardian in 2016 found only 43% of charity employees saying they were happy or very happy in their jobs – substantially less than the national average of 61%. Charity employees were 25% more likely to than other to have experienced stress. These are concerning numbers which shouldn’t be ignored.

Our sector deals with unique challenges relating to staff wellbeing. The nature of the way charities work often mean that contracts are short term and pay can be less competitive than in other sectors. Working in a charity can be tough and stressful, with limited resources to meet expectations. But it’s not all bad, with charity professionals 35% more likely to have experienced a sense of achievement in their job than the average employee and are 32% more likely to feel their job is worthwhile. These latter stats confirm my belief that for the vast majority of charity employees, we’re in the sector despite its challenges, because we want to do something good. The key then, is working towards ways we can reduce poor mental health at work through training, good management and the creation of effective and adequate support systems.

The mental health at work gateway

Today sees the launch of a new resource to help us do just that. The mental health at work gateway is an online platform that will provide the resources, training and information people need to make their life better at work for themselves, their colleagues and their staff. It includes practical help on developing policies and procedures that encourage positive mental health at work, in-person and online training for staff and managers in mental illness, and high-quality information to improve understanding around specific conditions, symptoms and treatments.

It is aimed primarily at employers, senior management and line managers, however it’s accessible to anybody and we’d encourage you to share it with your whole organisation. Everyone will find something on the platform useful to support a colleague or learn more about mental health in the workplace.

Overseen by the Heads Together campaign, the mental health at work gateway is funded by The Royal Foundation and produced by mental health charity Mind, in collaboration with 11 partners. I represented NCVO on the group as an adviser on the charity sector.

Using the platform

The platform is free to use, and I’d really encourage all charity staff, but particularly anyone who manages staff or volunteers, to take the time to use it. NCVO has contributed some sector-specific resources to it, and there is a wealth of high quality information, toolkits, blogs and case studies from a wide range of other organisations.

You can find the platform at

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Avatar photo Susan Cordingley is director of planning and resources at NCVO. She leads on NCVO's fifth strategic aim, to be a sustainable and socially responsible organisation.

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