The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has joined the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) Working Minds campaign, which celebrated its one-year anniversary yesterday (Wednesday, November 16).

The campaign has an aim of improving mental health in the UK’s workforce by encouraging employers to start to tackle work-related stress, talk to their staff and take steps to support the mental health of employees.

The workplace regulator’s figures show that of the 1.7 million workers suffering from a work-related illness, almost half (822,000) were suffering from stress, depression or anxiety.

The HSE has said that the agriculture sector is one of the priority sectors that are being targeted by the campaign.

The campaign wants employers and employees to form habits around the five Rs: ‘Reach out, Recognise, Respond, Reflect and make it Routine’.

Going forward, employers have been encouraged to hold regular catch-ups with their teams.

Research carried out by the HSE showed that employers were unaware of their legal duties or how to spot the signs of stress.

In response, Working Minds looks to develop networks to promote the legal duties by encouraging employers and workers across all sectors of the economy to sign up as campaign champions.

Liz Goodwill, head of the work related stress and mental health policy team at the HSE, said: “When we launched Working Minds a year ago, we were under no illusion that stress, anxiety and depression were on the rise in the UK.

“Our aim was to ensure psychosocial risks are treated the same as physical ones, that employers recognise their legal duty to prevent work-related stress to support good mental health in the workplace and that they have the tools they need to achieve this.”

Goodwill said that there are stressors both inside and outside of the workplace, so the expansion of the campaign is more important than ever, as “these challenges can only be tackled successfully by working together”.

Mental health and farming

Ruth Wilkinson, head of health and safety (policy and operations) at IOSH, said: “We’re really pleased to be collaborating with the HSE and other UK partners on the Working Minds campaign.

“Good mental health is just as important as good physical health.

“Our work can impact our mental health, both positively and negatively, so decent work and good working environments are important.”

Wilkinson said employers can play a key role in prevention through good risk management, raising awareness, training people to spot the signs of stress and by providing interventions to support colleagues.

“But a 2019 IOSH report revealed 80% of workers wouldn’t discuss their mental health with their line manager because the feared being stigmatised or judged incapable,” she said.

“Manger of the farm safety foundation, Stephanie Berkeley, said: “Physical and mental health need to have equal air-time because they’re so importantly linked.

“We know from our research that for 94% of young farmers, poor mental health is the biggest hidden danger in farming today and that’s why we need to work together on the Working Minds campaign.”

The total annual cost of poor mental health to employers has increased by 25% since 2019, costing UK employers £56 billion a year, according to a report by Deloitte.

Figures show employers can see a return of £5.30 on average for every £1 invested in mental health.