Caring for Care Workers: Managing the Mental Health of Vital Frontline Staff

By Jill Mead, CEO of TalkOut Group

Care work is a rewarding but often mentally challenging job. And with care homes having felt the damaging impact of Covid-19, it’s no surprise that care workers are feeling the effects on their mental health. In fact, according to a survey by the Institute for Public Policy Research, one in two health and social care workers across the UK feel their mental health has declined during the pandemic. Jill Mead, CEO of TalkOut Group, discusses what care home managers can do to help manage and spot the signs of poor mental health amongst workers and promote a healthier, happier workforce.

IS THE CARE HOME INDUSTRY MORE AT RISK?

Every industry has its own unique set of challenges when it comes to managing mental health and the care home industry is no different.

Whilst it can be a very rewarding career, there’s no denying that care work is physically and emotionally demanding. And if workers aren’t given the right support, this can lead to increased stress, anxiety, depression and burn out.

According to a report published by the National Association of Care and Support Workers, 81% of care staff feel their work has affected their mental health. On top of that, 79% of care staff said they have experienced or felt close to burn out.

As well as having a duty of care towards employees, looking after the wellbeing of your workforce makes operational sense. A healthier work- force means a more engaged and productive workforce, which is good for any organisation.

TRAINING

Clearly, more training needs to be given to managers to better equip them with the resources and confidence they need to respond in a posi- tive and helpful way when a team member takes the step to open up about their mental health problems.

Many employees are promoted to a managerial role because they’ve excelled at their job but too often, they aren’t given the formal training they need. If they don’t have experience of mental health, it’s unfair to expect managers to know how to deal with these complex issues when they arise in the workplace.

It’s crucial that we train our managers to give them the skills to sup- port, listen and empathise with those who are experiencing mental health issues, which in turn will encourage people to talk out.

By Jill Mead, CEO of TalkOut Group

Organisation leaders must take responsibility of ensuring they have a work environment where people can talk about mental health in the same way they talk about physical health. It’s important that all organisations – no matter what industry they operate in – create confidential and safe places where employees can go to talk through their concerns.

If we’re going to make any progress, there needs to be an under- standing and acknowledgement that people with mental health issues can often thrive at work with the right support.

Build awareness and conversation

For us to breakdown the stigma that exists around mental health, we need to talk about it more to raise awareness and normalise what peo- ple might be going through. Whether it’s internal communication on emails or the company’s intranet, posters and flyers around the building, regular one-to-ones, or wellbeing surveys, organisations should constantly be talking about mental health and reminding staff why it’s vital to talk out.

LEADERSHIP

Let’s not underestimate leadership behaviours and the impact they can have on a team member’s mental health. More training is needed to help leaders understand how they can influence mental health through their words and actions. As well as the workday pressures that we all experience, work-related stress and anxiety can be fuelled by bullying, harassment, and even a lack of managerial support.

Negative leadership behaviour will often have a ripple effect through- out an organisation, creating a culture of fear which will only serve to stop people talking about how they feel in work. Leaders are role models and in order for a mentally healthy culture of openness and trust to exist, this has to be demonstrated at the highest levels in the organisation.

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