Professor Dame Carol Black is calling on SMEs to treat mental health issues as a priority, and suggests practical steps they can take to introduce a good mental health culture.

Speaking to the British Safety Council, Professor Dame Carol Black urged SME owners and managers to get onboard with the mental health agenda.

“One in four employees in the UK have mental health problems. Their symptoms include stress, anxiety and depression, which affect their own performance and wellbeing, as well as that of other workers. These are the key reasons why SMEs should start treating mental health issues as a priority,” said Professor Black.

She continued: “Mental health issues affect small companies to a much greater extent than larger enterprises. Due to their size and fewer resources, SMEs cannot afford to have employees not working to their full capacity. The signs that the things are not well in a company are: poor productivity and employee engagement, as well as various symptoms of stress, which express themselves in growing propensity to take sick leave, increased turnover and presentism.”

Professor Carol Black suggests practical steps which every company, regardless of their size and budget, can undertake to introduce a culture that promotes good mental health. She recommended training managers in people management skills, and adding a mental health component. Then they will be able to recognise the signs when an employee becomes less well.

Professor Dame Carol Black will be a keynote speaker at the British Safety Council’s Annual Conference held on 4 October at The King’s Fund, London. She will address mental health issues in the workplace, using case studies to demonstrate the simple steps that can be taken to reduce the stigma and support employees.