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Abigail Hirshman: The new landscape of mental health

Monday 14 May 2018

Abigail Hirshman, Senior Adviser at Acas discusses mental health.

Abigail Hirshman Abigail Hirshman

Abigail is an Acas Senior Adviser based in Birmingham.




Speaking to a large group of HR practitioners recently, Sir Brendan Barber described how mental health has changed from being "a landmark" on the horizon, to being "the landscape" we all inhabit.

From a workplace perspective the landscape is dominated by three distinct but overlapping areas: employers, managers and individuals. Acas advisors, customers, key stakeholders and academics have joined together to devise a new model for managing mental health at work reflecting our shared vision for the workplace.

Shared goals diagram

Our shared goal is one of healthy and productive workplaces for all. This is ambitious, but it is evident from all our discussions that there is an appetite to change the existing narrative. You only have to think how far we have come in the past few years in fighting stigma and reaching a greater understanding of mental ill health. The statistics tell one story - I can't really compete with Mark Carneys credentials so would refer you to his interesting article in yesterday's Express if you want to see the impact of mental ill health on UK plc.  But this transformation can be just as well expressed in a few words. There is still a way to go, but for mental health:

  • An isolated landmark is now... the landscape.
  • What was personal life is now... the whole person.
  • The clinical has become... about everyday concerns.
  • An individual's responsibility is also... everyone's responsibility.

At Acas we take a holistic view of mental health and see that it is not just about mental ill health but about how collectively, as employers, managers and individuals we can understand and manage the many factors that affect our mental health and wellbeing.

There is no doubt that mental health is messy. The way we all think, act and behave is complex and changeable, and our behaviours and actions can be frequently misunderstood by ourselves and those around us. When we experience mental ill health, the picture can become even more confusing. However, regardless of whether we are organisational leaders or small business owners, managers or employees our common goal has to be to fight stigma, encourage disclosure and provide support to those who may need it.

Acas will be launching its new vision and associated products and services very soon. Keep checking our website for the latest news.

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