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How employers can help the rise in psychosis referrals

There was a 75% rise in the number of people referred to mental health services for suspected psychosis between April 2019 and April 2021 according to new data from the NHS.

Described as a state in which people experience hallucinations and delusional thinking, psychosis can be triggered by other mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or depression or caused by severe stress or anxiety.

The 75% rise reflects a rise in the first time people were referred for psychosis and follows the first national lockdown in the UK.

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To help people who may be suffering from the state, charity Rethink Mental Illness has called on government to invest more in early intervention.

With the rise in awareness of employee mental wellbeing, and the regular contact between people and their employers, companies are also well placed to help provide early intervention, it said.

"As with all ill health, prevention is better than cure and silence in the workplace can be deafening, leaving some employees feeling isolated," Simon Blake, CEO at Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, told HR magazine.

"All workplaces should have a mental health and wellbeing strategy in place to support their staff. One initiative won’t work unless it’s supported by wider cultural change with senior management leading by example. 

"This should include healthy job design, meeting flexible working needs, regular wellbeing check-ins, training staff, an employee assistance programme and more."

MHFA England research suggested that since the pandemic hit one in four (25%) employees have had no wellbeing check-ins from their workplace, and almost a third (29%) of workers never discuss their mental health in line management meetings. 

Each year an estimated 72 million working days are lost and 300,000 people fall out of work due to mental ill health too.

"Intervening early can help prevent this," added Blake.

"Better management of mental health in the workplace can improve productivity and wellbeing. It’s vital therefore that employers not only support the mental health and wellbeing of their people but create a workplace culture that actively improves it."

Ruth Smyth, head of people strategy EMEA at digital consultant Publicis Sapient, advised employers to seek expert advice when forming their mental health strategy to deal with specific cases.

Speaking to HR magazine she said: “Cases of psychosis are complex. Employers should work with an expert to ensure they’re creating the right environment at work to support people and sign-posting them quickly to experts, if they need it.”

Through a confidential survey, the people team at Publicis Sapient were able to pinpoint what employees needed to support their wellbeing.

Included in this support was a mental wellbeing resource group and the introduction of mental health first aider.

“If anyone wanted to talk in confidence, they could reach out to trained peers,” Smyth said.

“This foundation was essential during COVID. Many people sought help in maintaining balance in their lives.”

Steve Carter, director of consulting services at FirstCare, added that though employers have a duty of care to look after their people it is a tough job.

He told HR magazine: “Businesses are adapting to changing workforce structures following the pandemic and they need to adjust wellbeing structures to ensure the necessary support is in place.

“Understanding the impact of mental health is complex and challenging, particularly in the workplace, but what can help is early intervention and shared insights.”