Mental health and the role of employers

The current economic crisis has caused many people to turn to their careers to try and offset some of their financial difficulties. We asked Mental Health First Aid England what employers can do to help

The UK is facing its highest rate of inflation since the 1980s and while we have seen promises of energy price caps and ‘levelling’, there is still a great deal of uncertainty among us. As the cost of living increases, many people are being forced to change careers, work longer hours, or even take on a second job to try to offset some of the financial hardships they may be facing.

With that in mind, we reached out to Simon Blake OBE, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid England, to ask what employers can do to support the financial well-being of their employees.

What actions can employers take to support the financial well-being of employees?

As an employer, it’s important to remove the stigma surrounding financial issues so employees don’t suffer in silence and can access the support that is available to them. Research from a Wealth at Work survey found that 14% of UK adults say they are embarrassed by financial worries, up to 23% of 18-34 year olds.

As a nation, we may not feel very comfortable talking about our finances, but when we remove the stigma of talking about financial insecurities and worries, we can begin making plans to alleviate financial worries and spiritual well-being to promote. Here are a few top tips on how to break the mental health stigma in the workplace:

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1. Employing Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAiders®) in the workplace

The role of an MHFAider® is to be a focal point for an employee who is experiencing a mental health issue or emotional distress. The MHFA course teaches people how to spot the early signs of poor mental health, including the warning signs of common mental health crises.

Research from the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows that one in two adults in debt suffer from mental health problems, and over 100,000 people in England attempt suicide each year while struggling with debt. MHFAiders are trained on how to approach the person, listen and communicate without prejudice and then escalate to relevant support. This interaction can range from an initial conversation to assisting the person to get appropriate help.

2. Focus on flexibility

Face-to-face interactions have individual and business benefits and whilst at MHFA England I am very keen that my teams are in the office once a month for our staff meeting, I am also aware of the travel costs. By minimizing the required office days and providing lunch for everyone, hopefully some of the cost can be mitigated. We also have a flexible or reduced working time policy that can help our employees avoid peak travel expenses.

3. Stay connected

Creating opportunities to bring people together and boost morale will be important in the coming months. Proactively creating moments of celebration and joy at work and reminding employees that they have a strong team structure can help people through challenging times.

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Be considerate of your social planning and encourage all employees to do so. Activities can sometimes be expensive and people may not feel able to participate. Introducing a mix of social options, including virtual and affordable activities, can allow more employees to feel included without putting additional strain on their finances.

How can employers start difficult conversations about money/budget?

Because of societal norms, many people are uncomfortable talking about money worries. 68% would not want to discuss finances with their employer for fear of shame, embarrassment or even discrimination.

Positive and open cultures are developed from the top down. As senior leaders, we can start from scratch by showing that we understand that finances are becoming increasingly scarce and a significant number of people in most organizations will struggle to deal with them.

We must also remember that rising costs will exacerbate existing economic and social inequalities, and some groups in your workforce will be more affected than others. We can helpfully encourage people to access the support available to them, whether it’s from a line manager, your Employee Assistance Program, or others within your organization.


An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is an employer-sponsored service that provides its employees with free access to healthcare support. In the Counseling Directory, we provide a list of counselors and therapists who can accept both EAPs and health insurance.

How can employers help their employees feel more financially secure?

Businesses should take stock and make sure they are aware of any benefits already being offered, e.g. E.g. season ticket loans, wage cuts or “bike to work” programs. Make sure employees know they exist and how to make the most of them.

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As employers, we should ensure that our wellbeing strategies reflect the relationship between financial and spiritual wellbeing. As part of the support we offer our employees, we recently ran an online discussion to help our employees understand the various options available to deal with the cost of living crisis. We wanted to make sure people know that we know things might be difficult in the coming months and that they feel supported.

Discussing financial situations with your employer or co-workers can feel taboo. The truth is that the cost of living crisis is likely to impact us all in one way or another. So if you find it’s affecting you, your family or your job, it’s important to talk to your employer about what support they can offer you. If you feel like you can’t confide in them, try having a conversation with HR or a close colleague instead.

This month MHFA England launches its new MHFA course which is the only licensed, internationally accredited, evidence-based MHFA course in England. It has been redeveloped through an integrative lens – promoting equity and understanding around mental health. If you are interested in learning more about training MHFAiders for your organization visit MHFA England.

Continue reading about the latest course from the MHFA England.

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