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Sun, Feb

A mindful move

As mental health issues mount, the Printing Charity is rolling-out a 24-hour helpline. Chief executive Neil Lovell explains.

While ‘innovation’ in the print sector is usually associated with technology, it can also positively influence staff wellbeing and productivity by creating a culture that breaks down the barriers to tackling mental health challenges in the workplace. 

Mental ill health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing an average of £1,035 per employee per year. Life has its ups and downs and according to the mental health charity, Mind, every year one in four of us will experience a mental health problem, the most common being anxiety and depression. Its research shows that work is the biggest cause of stress in people’s lives, more so than debt or financial problems. 

Figures from Mind show that one in five people take a day off work due to stress and 42% have considered resigning due to workplace stress. The fact that 95% of employees calling in sick with stress gave a different reason shows mental health is still a taboo subject in many workplaces. 

Employers have a clear responsibility to look after their staff, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because research shows that supporting positive mental health at work is good for business and productivity. It is also true that it can be difficult for employers to know how to respond when someone is in crisis or recognise the signs of an impending crisis. According to Mind, 56% of employers would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing but do not feel they have the right training and guidance. 

In a print sector made up predominantly of SMEs, some companies are supporting staff well, while others lack the time, confidence, and resources to focus on issues other than day-to-day operations. Moreover, in a male-dominated workforce, men are less likely than women to talk openly about their problems. 

As the sector’s occupational charity, The Printing Charity is here to help people of all ages in the sector in genuine need and make a positive difference to their lives. We have long thought our support should not be restricted to financial help, so we carried out research about the impact our grants have for our beneficiaries to help inform our future activities. Through an engagement programme of interviewee-led, semi-structured interviews, the value of being able to talk to someone was the very powerful message we received from our beneficiaries. 

Our takeaway was to look at how other benevolent charities are responding to changing needs, including addressing the growing awareness of the impact of mental health problems. It confirmed to us that we have a role to play by extending access to a direct, 24-hour, broader range of practical and emotional support as a natural development of our current nine-to-five helpline offer. 

Against the backdrop of an ever-changing sector, a growing awareness that employees can struggle to get the support they need with mental health challenges, and our own insights from the people we help, we have been looking at the best way to develop our helpline. This has involved identifying the right partner with British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) trained counsellors and Citizens Advice style information specialists to run our dedicated helpline. 

There are no silver bullets to the challenge of dealing with mental health but having someone to talk to is a good first step. The type of support you can access through our free, confidential helpline offers that 24/7. It is not intended to be a panacea for all problems but it does provide vital, in the moment support with the potential for counselling where it is felt that approach will help. The service will also help with more practical life challenges from dealing with a family breakdown, caring for an elderly relative, and childcare to debt, bereavement, and finding out about your consumer rights. 

We are now in our first phase of the roll-out with large and small companies in the sector to gain an insight into the best way to introduce it to their employees. We will be looking at the second phase of companies to talk to about this service in 2020 and long-term we see this as being sector wide. 

If you would like to find out more about how your company can get involved in the helpline email sophie@theprintingcharity.org.uk

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