Accounting for Mental Health

Mental health is now one of the biggest threats to public health and thus, inevitably, to our economic health too.

It is welcome that a much brighter light has been shone on the issue in recent years, but there is still a long way to go.

The recently-released report, “Thriving at Work”, by Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer, investigates the extent to which mental health plays a role in the workplace.

The Role of Workplaces

This report should serve as a wake-up call to all employers, but may have particular relevance to the accountancy profession; it recommends that, “professional bodies with responsibility for training or accrediting professional qualifications”, should include workplace mental health in their training programmes and assessments.

Employers and workplaces have a key role to play in ensuring the wellbeing of their employees, and this is increasingly important in the area of mental health. Greater wellbeing means higher quality of output.

The six mental health core standards recommended for adoption are reasonable standards that employers should be expected to consider, and many will already be complying with some of them.

Taking Action

ICAEW has already made efforts to raise the profile of mental health. For example, in economia, we have published articles on how to look after your own mental health, how to spot symptoms amongst others in the workplace and why employers should invest in mental wellbeing. We should, however, continue to develop more “hands-on” approaches.

In 2016, we put measures in place to ensure that during disciplinary procedures, the personal wellbeing of members, specifically determination as to whether physical or mental health is impaired, is given full regard. It is important to us as an organisation that we understand the impact of mental health upon the behaviour of our members.

As chartered accountants more widely, we are fortunate to have CABA in place to support our wellbeing at work. They have trained counsellors on hand and offer support in a number of specific subject areas that are sometimes the source of mental health conditions. More information on their services can be found on their website.

Earlier this year, CABA released research that found that only 57% of British employees would tell somebody at work if they thought they were suffering from poor mental health.

We must all promote a supportive, non-judgemental culture in order to encourage people to open up. We must also be able to guide them in the right direction once we are aware. This will offer better support to victims and help ensure the long-term success of businesses.

The workplace can and should be used as a tool to help everyone to look after their own mental health and that of those around them.