During 16-22 May 2016, Mental Health Awareness Week is a week-long national event that aims to make more people aware of all aspects of Mental Health issues. Alison Biggs, Occupational Therapist and owner of Healthywork Ltd discusses Occupational Therapy, employer and employee support guides and Wellness Action Plans (WAPs), an aspect of Mental Health management that can be applied in the workplace.
Promotion of Mental Health in the workplace is as important as good management of an ongoing mental health condition that an employee may be experiencing.
Occupational Therapists are the only Allied Health Professional trained at a pre-registration level to work within both physical health and mental health and offer health assessments in the workplace for all health needs in order to assess the employee’s ability to perform their work role and suggest reasonable adjustments which can help, see the Healthywork Mental Health Assessment services.
Communicating and Building Relationships at Work
As well as lots of practical advice that is available to help us all individually and collectively prevent stress, anxiety and depression and other mental health situations, communicating and building relationships with our work colleagues and managers is important for them to understand us better and actively promote our wellbeing, thus also preventing us from becoming unwell.
In our previous blog we look at particular advice from the Health and Wellbeing @ Work Conference 2016, where the advice for easing discussions around mental health in the workplace was to discuss the health situation as early as possible and in a clear and direct friendly way by listening and expressing concern and considering their individual needs, alongside discussing other aspects of their work and personal situation as well.
Further advice is available in the MHFA Line Managers Resource Pack and also Tips for everyday living at work for employees – how to be mentally healthy at work from the Charity Mind.
What is a WAP?
The Charity Mind have developed a useful Guide to Wellness Action Plans (WAPs) document, which encourages employees to reflect on the causes of their own stress and poor mental health in the workplace and actively support their own mental health by taking ownership of practical steps to help address these triggers.
Alison’s highlights from the document include:
Talk to each other
“This process can also help managers to open up dialogue with employees, understand their needs and experiences and ultimately better support their mental health.
The WAP is inspired by Mary Ellen Copeland’s Wellness Recovery Action Plan® (WRAP®): an evidence-based system used worldwide by people to manage their mental health.
We all need to support our mental health at work, so all staff should be offered a WAP – whether they have a mental health problem or not. This sends a clear message that the organisation cares about employee wellbeing and helps encourage people to be open and seek support sooner.
Prevention and pro-active help
“Managers should work together with employees to develop a personal action plan to proactively manage their mental health. This allows people to plan in advance and develop tailored support for a time when they’re not coping so well”.
It also facilitates open dialogue with managers – leading to practical, agreed steps which can form the basis for regular monitoring and review.
An action plan should cover:
- Actions and behaviours that support the employee’s mental wellbeing.
- Symptoms, early warning signs and triggers for poor mental health or stress.
- Potential impact of poor mental health or a mental health problem on their performance.
- What support they need from their Line Manager.
- Positive steps for the individual to take if they are experiencing stress or poor mental health.
- An agreed time to review the support measures to see if they’re working.
It should be drafted by the employee, with support from a health professional where appropriate, and then discussed and agreed with the manager.
The WAP should be held confidentially and regularly reviewed by the employee and their manager together.
Employees need only provide information that relates to their role and the workplace, and that they are comfortable sharing.
The WAP is not legally binding but is intended to allow a Line Manager to agree with employees how they can be practically supported in the workplace and how to address any health needs.”
This post is written by Alison Biggs, Occupational Therapist and owner of Healthywork Ltd, an Occupational Health Services business providing DSE Asssement, Ergonomic Assessment, Functional Capacity Assessment, Vocational Assessment, Mental Health Assessment, Cognitive Assessment and Vocational Rehabilitation Return to Work services, as well as Manual Handling Training and Ergonomic Training. You can contact Alison on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at https://healthywork.org.uk