Monday, 24 August 2009

Mind helps pave the way for better mental health support at work

Thousands of people who are experiencing mental distress will soon be benefiting from practical, tailored support to help them stay in employment. Following a successful pilot project by the Mind London Employment Network the Government has committed to roll out the programme nationally.

Mind's In Work Support project uses retention specialists to assist workers who are experiencing mental distress to stay in employment. They provide practical and emotional support and can mediate with employers on the individual's behalf to agree adjustments to working practices. Unlike other retention schemes, the project is marketed direct to individuals encouraging them to self refer. This innovative approach bypasses previous barriers to help such as fear of stigma from their employer.

Mind's Director of External Relations Sophie Corlett said: "The In Work Support programme has proved that intervening early and providing personalised support is the most effective way to help people with mental health problems keep their jobs. Sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest difference and give people the confidence they need to get back to work. We welcome the Government's commitment to expand this project and its plans to develop a national strategy for Mental Health and employment."

Mind's National Workplace lead Alex Tambourides said: "If employees experiencing mental distress can access support early enough, and on their terms, they can be empowered to prevent their health and lives from spiraling out of the workplace and into social exclusion. In Work Support proves that if the service is flexible, person centered both the employer and the employee can win. We have enabled conversations between managers and staff that would have been previously brushed under the carpet by stigma and misunderstanding. None of this would be possible if it were not for the skills, tenacity and expertise of the staff at the local Mind associations in Hammersmith and Islington where we've been running the two pilots."

Rachel is someone who has been helped significantly by Mind's In Work Support scheme. Following the death of her mother, Rachel experienced depression and needed to take several weeks off work, she wanted to return to employment but was anxious and started to have panic attacks when travelling to the office. A member of the In Work Support team helped her on a practical level accompanying her when travelling and negotiated a phased return to work with her employer so she could increase her working hours gradually.

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