Nearly 30 people met at the Great Expectations Hotel in Reading on the 28th November to discuss mental health at work.

Keith Leslie, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Mental Health Foundation told us about the massive adverse effect of poor mental health in the workplace where over 14% of people experience mental health problems. A staggering 70 million work days are lost each year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.

It seems women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have common mental health problems in the workplace as men (19.8% v 10.9%).

Keith advised us of a Mental Health Foundation publication called “How to Support Mental Health in the Workplace” which gives us

  • ideas on how to manage our own mental health at work
  • ideas on how to reach out to a colleague in distress
  • ideas how you can work with others to make your workplace a healthier place mentally for everyone
  • an employer checklist for creating mentally healthy workplaces

Keith Leslie’s talk was followed by a talk from Dr. Dan Dennis who, while recognising there are many mental conditions that can only be corrected by medical intervention, also pointed out that there are occasions where conditions can be changed by lifestyle changes such as getting sufficient sleep, improving the diet, spending time with family and friends, physical exercise and the avoidance of drugs to mention just a few.

There followed a discussion amongst us all about the issues of Mental Health with various views expressed. An important organisation was mentioned – Mental Health First Aid – which provides a national programme to teach the skills on how to respond to the signs of mental illness and substance use.

Call to action

At the end of the meeting, we agreed that we would take our thoughts back to our workplace and ask how our organisations support good mental health in the workplace.

Many thanks to all who attended and for the positive response to this Meetup. If you have any ideas of topics you would like us to cover in future Meetups, please let us know.