Promoting EAPs during National Stress Awareness Month
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17. During the same period, more than 500,000 workers stated that they were suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety. GPs also report that symptoms of stress are on the increase in the UK, with the majority of GPs (85%) reporting a rise in the number of patients with symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression in the last five years according to a survey by Royal London.
While the majority of work-related stress is attributed to workload, around 1 in 7 people say it is due to lack of support. Yet we know that Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) are the most popular wellbeing initiative provided by employers in the UK. While awareness is growing slowly, a gap still exists between awareness and the services already being provided by organisations to support mental health issues. “The issue here is that while some employees are aware their organisation has an EAP, they don’t necessarily know what it means and how it can help,” says Neil Mountford, chair of the UK Employee Assistance Professionals Association.
“Hosting regular EAP awareness and mental health awareness sessions can help give employees a better understanding of mental health , as well as an awareness of the services and support available to them. Improving knowledge of how EAPs can help will also increase usage of the service. If there are concerns around confidentiality of the EAP, it is vital to communicate that any discussions are private and confidential and will not be shared with their employer. It also helps if managers have a better understanding of the EAP and other support services available so that they can talk to employees about these.
“In order for an EAP to deliver significant benefit and value, employers need to work with their providers to raise awareness and provide education for employees. Organisations that do this will see the long term benefits of a successful EAP and the positive impact on employee wellbeing and organisation through improved productivity and fewer days lost to mental ill health. Line manager education and coaching on how best to manage mental health issues is also a key part of the equation and while EAPs have the capability, expertise and capacity to do this, this is less well known and utilised by employers.
“If take-up of your EAP is low, consider creating events or communications to tie in with key events on the wellbeing calendar and help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. Ultimately, it is in the interest of all EAP providers to raise awareness of the issue of mental health at work and the role we can play in eradicating the problem and April’s National Stress Awareness Month could be the perfect place to start.”