Supporting women’s mental health in the workplace

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By Kayleigh Frost, Head of Clinical at Health Assured

Tuesday 8 March is International Women’s Day: An event that celebrates women’s achievements, raises awareness against biases, and encourages action for equality.

When it comes to the workplace, women face a range of issues. From pay gaps and balancing work and parenting, to menopause misconceptions.

The face of women’s mental health also has unique challenges. For example, figures show women in the UK are almost twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders. And around one in five women have a mental health issue.

Why do women face unique mental health challenges? Well, there are many factors to consider. But here are several risk factors statistically affecting women more than men.

Carers: Women are more likely to adopt a caring role and suffer from the anxiety and isolation that comes alongside this. It can lead to a stunt in professional development too.

Abuse: Research shows that women suffer from domestic abuse more than men. In fact, in 2020, there were 1.6 million cases of abuse reported by women. The trauma, emotional distress and physical harm this abuse causes can be detrimental to mental health.

Unique mental health challenges: Some mental health conditions are specific to women. For example, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and most cases of post-natal depression. The menopause can also have severe mental health implications for women, although, the menopause isn’t a mental health condition in itself.

As we edge ever further into a world that values mental health, just as much as physical health, we must recognise the challenges women face.

And because we spend so much time at work, these problems are a workplace issue that needs addressing too. Thus, employers must rise up and take responsibility to improve employee support.

Here are five simple steps you can take to get started.

 1. Enhance your mental health support 

Everyone should be able to access mental health support when they need it. Ensure you’re providing employees support through an employee assistance programme or an alternative. By doing this, you provide a lifeline in times of need.

It encourages employees to reach out for help when they need it and overcome life’s many twists and turns.

2. Provide mental health training 

Many courses can educate managers and employees about mental health problems, including those specific to women. This training helps to raise awareness and reduce biases at work.

When you make mental health education a workplace priority, stigma reduces, encouraging open conversations on the topic.

 3. Communication is key 

Busy work schedules, fast-paced job roles and jam-packed diaries make it difficult for managers to check in with their teams regularly. But communication is essential for employees to raise any concerns. Ensure managers are connecting with employees each week in a supportive manner.

This way you’ll be able to address problems when they arise, instead of them festering away unnoticed.

4. Support managing symptoms 

The symptoms of many mental health conditions can make it hard for employees to stay engaged and productive at work. Take the symptoms of anxiety, for example. Restlessness, a sense of dread and difficulty concentrating (to name but a few).

Many workers will suffer through these symptoms, trying their best. But work-life can be vastly improved with a few small changes. Flexible working, extra breaks and occasional homeworking can make a big difference.

5. Leadership & development 

2021 research shows that despite advancements, women are still underrepresented in senior roles at work than men. Progressing and achieving goals is essential to maintaining good mental health. Improve equality in your workplace and lay out a path to progression for all workers—women and men.

Having these goals in place helps women achieve satisfaction in their roles and promote better mental health.

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    AUTHOR

    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien