The guide, funded by the BMA, comes as the NHS workforce continues to battle COVID-19 – its greatest challenge to date, it says.
It urges NHS managers to create ‘mentally healthy’ cultures at work and dispel the rising myth of the ‘hero narrative’ fuelled as it has been by the recent elevation of NHS staff.
‘Mental health still seems to be something that is not openly discussed given the requirement for being strong in our roles,’ one NHS worker told MIND in its research for the guide.
The guide includes tips and advice on how to be a more ‘compassionate leader’ and to tackle the stigma of mental ill health in the workplace. ‘Compassionate leadership is needed now more than ever, and staff wellbeing needs to be a priority,’ it says.
Its tips include, creating visible places for information about mental health and mental health problems, opportunities for staff to talk about mental health, such as in workshops, and lists of doctors with mental health problems who are seen as ‘strong’ or ‘successful’.
Ask for help
‘Having people they can relate to, talk about their own mental health, will help people who may be struggling,’ it adds. ‘As NHS leaders, you play an essential role in reducing mental health stigma and creating cultures where reaching out for support is encouraged and welcomed,’ the guide says.
BMA mental health policy lead Andrew Molodynski says the guide should empower employers to support staff.
‘The relentless demands of the pandemic have taken a heavy toll on the mental health and well-being of the NHS workforce over the last year as many have been stretched to their absolute limit,’ he added. ‘With such sustained levels of unprecedented pressure, it is absolutely crucial that the NHS can adapt to meet the growing mental health needs of an increasingly exhausted and fragile workforce.’
Most doctors in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are suffering some form of anxiety or depression, according to the BMA’s most recent tracker survey of the profession. Almost half (46 per cent) said their condition had worsened since the start of the pandemic.
Doctors are also being helped to cope with loss, death, and grief with a short film by Child Bereavement UK, also funded by the BMA. The video includes advice from the charity’s medical adviser Su Laurent to help doctors spot signs of stress and burnout.