Mental Health


Why Mental Health Week is every week

Dean Royles, strategic workforce advisor at Skills for Health and co-author of ‘An Introduction to Human Resource Management’ published by Oxford University Press, argues that organisational culture can be one of the most significant constraints to a workforce’s mental health and wellbeing.

It may just be me, it may just be because I spend too much time watching Bear Grylls and Ray Mears, but each time I go out hiking and take a wrong turn, I wonder if I could survive if I got lost, really lost. Could I live off the land? Could I bring myself to kill and eat (a rodent or similar, not my hiking buddy!)? I wonder what I would need to survive? Would it be my physical self or my mental health that would crack first? What would I need to make it through?

A few weeks ago it was mental health week, a time when we try to focus and contemplate the importance and fragility of our own, our friends’ and family’s, and our colleagues’ mental health. Encouragingly, many organisations hold events and activities to draw attention to this vitally important issue. It seems to grow in importance each year.

And yet, despite so much in the media about mental health, about parity of esteem, about the importance of mindfulness, about access to services and despite knowing ‘it’s okay to not be okay,’ this is still a difficult issue in the workplace. Perhaps, the most difficult issue.

People in the NHS do incredibly difficult jobs in incredibly challenging circumstances, sometimes working out the limits of science. The work can be stressful. More often than not, staff are working with limited resources and always working where empathy and compassion are what matter most. Working where empathy and compassion are what can make the difference to a positive outcome or experience for patients and service users. To do this effectively staff need safe and supportive environments.

Increasingly, organisations are taking on a more sophisticated strategic approach to helping staff to look after their own health and wellbeing and there are many great case studies to learn from. There are a number of institutions, tool kits and programmes that organisations can use to help and assist managers and staff.

However, probably the most significant constraint to the mental health and wellbeing of employees is organisational culture. Leaders that can set an example and be a role model are particularly important and I have been impressed and humbled by the way a number of NHS chief executives, successful chief executives, have opened up to speak about their own mental health.

Some have shared stories about the impact of poor mental health in their family lives. It is incredibly brave to be so openly vulnerable and I hope more people feel able to share, so we all learn more about the impact of mental health on our lives and in our workplaces. This feels hugely important to creating an NHS-wide understanding of how we can support the mental health of our staff, despite the daily challenges they face. This clear leadership manifests itself in the way that line managers respond to staff being open about the support they need. Sometimes, just the opportunity to share, to listen and to understand is all they ask for – to be a sympathetic and understanding ear.

Supporting staff with their health and wellbeing isn’t just about providing gyms or mental health first aiders in the workplace – as valuable as those things are. The big difference can be because a manager or a colleague notices you and then asks ‘Are you okay? What can I do to help?’

My experience is that I have most enjoyed work and thrived at work, despite significant pressures, when I know that my boss cared. That she/he noticed when I was feeling under pressure and cared, practically and emotionally.

In the same way that a friend would be the difference to whether I would thrive or survive being lost in the wilderness. A friend at work, a caring manager, makes the difference about whether we thrive or survive in the workplace.

Top image: ipopba


Enjoying NHE? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

NHS staff to receive ‘fast-track’ mental health support as part of wellbeing plans

21/02/2019NHS staff to receive ‘fast-track’ mental health support as part of wellbeing plans

The government has pledged to provide better mental health and wellbeing support for NHS staff as part of its ‘workforce implementation pla... more >
NHS pays £35m in tax penalties for staff breaching pension limits

21/02/2019NHS pays £35m in tax penalties for staff breaching pension limits

Nearly £35m was paid by the NHS for thousands of staff members who broke limits on pensions savings, according to the Financial Times.... more >
University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust hospital hit with ‘requires improvement’ rating again by CQC

21/02/2019University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust hospital hit with ‘requires improvement’ rating again by CQC

The health inspectorate has told University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust that it must improve its diagnostic and pharmacy services at Derriford H... more >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital exemplars who were revealed at the same show 12 months earlier.  Jeremy Hunt also stated th... read more >

last word

Hard to be optimistic

Hard to be optimistic

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, warns that we must be realistic about the very real effects of continued underfunding across the health service. It’s now bey... more > more last word articles >

the scalpel's daily blog

Did Brexit drown out the NHS Long Term plan?

20/02/2019Did Brexit drown out the NHS Long Term plan?

In January the NHS released its much-anticipated Long Term plan, pledging to save 500,000 lives through new prevent strategies, and making a concerted effort to improve the general public’s health. But Simon Keen, media relations manager at NHS Providers, poses the question: Did Brexit drown out the NHS Long Term plan? Brexit. Bruss... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >


Maximising volunteer potential in hospitals

14/02/2019Maximising volunteer potential in hospitals

Sam Ward, director of commissioned services at the Royal Voluntary Service, argues that the right training can help harness the power of voluntee... more >
ICO: Cyber security and the NHS

14/02/2019ICO: Cyber security and the NHS

Peter Brown, acting head of technology policy at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), explains the importance of good practice in data pr... more >
Leading and managing experts

14/02/2019Leading and managing experts

A coaching conversation is likely to yield the best results. Managing experts in the health industry can be a challenging and varying responsibil... more >
Mesothelioma in the UK: a growing fight

14/02/2019Mesothelioma in the UK: a growing fight

The health impacts of asbestos in the UK can cast a much wider net than those in the construction and building sector. Liz Darlison, head of serv... more >


How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

24/10/2018How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

A dedicated national social care service could be a potential solution to surging demand burdening acute health providers over the winter months,... more >
RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

24/10/2018RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

The president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has told NHE that the college’s new headquarters based in Liverpool will become a hu... more >
Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

24/01/2018Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

The NHS plays a part in the country’s wellness – but it’s far from being all that matters. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Pu... more >
Cutting through the fake news

22/11/2017Cutting through the fake news

In an era of so-called ‘fake news’ growing alongside a renewed focus on reducing stigma around mental health, Paul Farmer, chief exec... more >
Tackling infection prevention locally

04/10/2017Tackling infection prevention locally

Dr Emma Burnett, a lecturer and researcher in infection prevention at the University of Dundee’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and a boar... more >

health service focus

View all News