Employers can’t ignore mental health challenges affecting young people

World Mental Health Day on 10 October will focus on young people and mental health in a changing world. It’s crucial that businesses understand the unique challenges young people face and tailor support accordingly, or risk neglecting this demographic, according to The Health Insurance Group.

Online resilience

Under-19s are seeking treatment for mental health issues more so than any previous generation on record. One area frequently cited as negatively impacting mental health is the internet, where young people are particularly vulnerable to online threats – be it cyber bullying or feelings of inadequacy when comparing social media lives.

However, as the young have grown up with technology and the internet, it’s also one of the best mediums to reach them. As a tech-savvy generation, any initiatives businesses instigate to support young people with their mental health must be mobile-friendly. They are accustomed to the immediacy and interactivity technology provides and use it to help manage all aspects of their lives. With mental health, apps are becoming increasingly sophisticated to reflect this – with some monitoring mood daily to help engage users and signpost them to external support available when needed.

Whilst using an app to support mental health may feel alien to some, for the younger generations in particular, it can be a lifeline to effectively manage daily stresses. Apps can help users better understand and manage their personal stress trigger points, such as coping with anxiety during busy work commutes, and learn techniques – including mindfulness – to help navigate challenging situations. Many employees are recognising the value mental health apps can bring to their employees and are working them into their overall health and wellbeing initiatives to provide a holistic approach that can support employees of all ages.

Alcohol abuse

The abuse of alcohol is a key factor in mental ill-health, exacerbating the issue by providing temporary chemically induced highs, but prolonged and complex lows. It can cause multiple issues such as memory loss, liver damage, depression and anxiety and it remains a key factor in self harm, suicide and psychosis – as it makes people lose their inhibitions and behave impulsively, leading to actions they may not have otherwise taken.

Even though young people appear to be bucking the overall trend when it comes to alcohol consumption in the UK, drinking less than the national average and also fewer times in a week – a concern still remains over binge drinking, with related hospital admissions increasing 57% for young men (15-24 year olds), and by 76% for young women over a decade.

Alcohol abuse can range in severity and affect multiple areas within the workplace – from managing colleagues that are inebriated or hungover, to supporting teams affected by alcoholism – it is an area that can benefit from employer intervention. There are a variety of initiatives employers can provide to help employees tackle bad habits. Whether offering alcohol-cessation programmes or providing online guides which raise awareness of damaging consumption levels – it’s important employees can access advice in a way that is suitable to them.

Equipped managers

Research shows that of the 48% who said they experienced mental health problems in their current job, only half talked to their employer about it – suggesting one in four suffer in silence at work. With so much of our time spent at work, a place where mental health concerns can be further aggravated, it’s crucial that managers are equipped to have sensitive conversations with employees. By collaborating with specialist organisations, businesses can provide mental health training to their managers to handle individual situations more effectively.

Review employee benefits

It’s important to review benefits packages to ensure that mental health cover is adequate. Under some private medical insurance policies, pre-existing mental health conditions may not be covered, or support for mental health services may be limited.

Businesses should also look at the existing benefits they provide and ensure any inherent added-value-benefits that can support mental health are understood and utilised. For example, employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can often be included within group risk protection products – potentially providing employees with access to confidential counselling during times of need.

Brett Hill, managing director, The Health Insurance Group said:

“Organisations can’t bury their heads in the sand when it comes to mental health. Research regularly highlights that mental health support needs to improve in the workplace, and businesses need to lead this change, creating positive working environments where mental health is actively addressed and supported.

“Creating a mental health wellbeing strategy is a good starting point, with regular reviews to ensure it is fit for purpose and not just a tick-box exercise. With mental health problems taking on so many different guises, affecting people of all ages in different ways, it’s time employers clued up and provided tailored support. Whether offering mental health apps, alcohol-cessation programmes, EAPs or managerial training – everyone within the workforce will benefit in the long run if mental health is given the attention it deserves.”