Sick days dropped by 22%
A study published in BMC Public Health reveals that employee training programs focusing on addressing common mental health concerns in the workplace can significantly reduce stigmatic beliefs and absenteeism. The research conducted at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in the United Kingdom found that this type of program led to a remarkable 22% decrease in recorded sick days among the staff.
The beauty of this program lies in its broad applicability, as it isn’t tailored to a specific workforce but rather addresses general mental health problems. Researchers believe that this approach can be adopted across various organizations and industries worldwide. Nicola Gray, the lead researcher from Swansea University’s School of Psychology, highlighted the importance of early intervention in mental health issues, which are often hidden and worsen over time. The training program, known as “Prevail,” equips individuals with evidence-based psychological techniques to manage and treat common conditions while simultaneously reducing the stigma associated with mental health problems.
The study also shed light on the challenges faced by managers in addressing employees’ mental health needs, especially with the rise of burnout and stress in recent years. By incorporating mental health sensitivity training, leaders can better identify struggling employees and collaborate on finding solutions.
The research targeted several prevalent conditions, including depression, anxiety, and distress caused by various life events such as bereavement, divorce, debt, housing problems, and friendship issues.
In the study, DVLA staff and managers were divided into two groups: one underwent the training sessions, while the other did not. The group that participated in the Prevail program learned valuable psychological techniques, coping mechanisms, and basic mental health literacy to handle common conditions. As a result, this group experienced fewer sick days and reduced mental health stigma. Conversely, the group that did not receive training showed an increase in sick days.
The Prevail program’s unique approach is to equip all employees with the necessary tools to support themselves and their colleagues, friends, or family, rather than merely identifying those who may need help.
Helen Davies, the Head of HR at DVLA, expressed satisfaction with the development and investment in the Prevail program. Many employees reported that Prevail helped them overcome mental health difficulties and enabled them to assist others by sharing the techniques they learned.
The study’s findings reinforce the growing importance of mental health training and benefits, particularly among younger workers. A survey of recent college graduates revealed that nearly all of them believed employers should offer mental and emotional health benefits, with more than a third prioritizing companies that do so during their job search. As mental health awareness continues to rise, initiatives like the Prevail program are likely to gain even more prominence in the years to come.