Managing mental health in the workplace: Sync NI talks to Alexander Mann Solutions

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  • Discussing  mental health issues in the workplace is often described as the last taboo, but many organisations in Northern Ireland are forging ahead with plans to address the issue.

    World Mental Health Day on October 10 saw a number of local, public and private sector organisations unite to show support for the thousands of people affected by mental illness across the region.

    One of those organisations is talent acquisition and management specialists Alexander Mann Solutions, which has a headcount of over 250 staff based at their Millennium House headquarters in Belfast.

    Centre Lead, Marcella McKeever, has created a dedicated team of five-strong tasked with supporting and mentoring staff members who may be in need of help. She warns that the holiday season “can be very difficult for people - keeping on top of financial, work and family commitments”.

    “Specific signs would be people who are disengaged within the teams and from their work, people who have a handful of unexpected absences within the workplace, or people who aren’t able to perform to the level of we know that they're capable of,” she says.

    For Marcella, intervention can sometimes be “as simple as talking with people,asking if they're okay and having a conversation”.

    “While we're not trained counsellors, we are experienced people managers and we do know how to have sensitive conversations with people. We also have our own employee assistance programme, which supports employees across all aspects of their lives across financial, family, health and work. This can potentially lead to prompting the individual in need to seek further support through professional counselling ,” she says.

    A mental illness or disorder can affect anyone in society, irrespective of age, gender, socio-economic status, or ethnic background.

    According to the OECD, mental health issues cost the UK around £70 billion every year. That equates to around 4.5% of GDP or an average of £1,035 per employee per year.

    Mental illness is a major public health issue in Northern Ireland and is the single largest cause of ill health and disability. According to Northern Ireland Assembly research, Northern Ireland has higher levels of mental ill health than any other region in the UK - with 1-in-5 adults and around 45,000 children experiencing a mental health problem at any one time.

    In October, Alexander Mann Solutions joined more than 625 business organisations by signing The Time To Change Employer Pledge. The pledge was created by two charities and they work with signatories who are committed to addressing mental health issues, developing action plans to support employees.

    The company has also established partnerships with Lighthouse and Action Mental Health to support staff internally and help people in the wider community.

    Over the past few months, Alexander Mann Solutions has delivered a number of employability workshops for Action Mental Health clients, covering interview skills, CV writing and teamwork.

    “Our area of expertise and knowledge lies in talent acquisition and people management,” says Marcella. “So we’re able to leverage our experience to help clients to build their confidence and develop new skills. This is really rewardingfor our teams  and we’re planning to do more workshops going into 2018.”

    Earlier this year, Equality Commission NI's Chief Commissioner Michael Wardlow highlighted the benefits of addressing mental health within the workplace, stating: "Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. We should all be more open about facing up to the issues and talking about it. Proper management of employee mental health leads to improved attendance, increased productivity and overall - it generally costs less than absence."

    Mental ill-health can be identified by changes in thinking, mood or behaviour. Further information for employers on how to address mental ill-health in the workplace can be found at

    Individuals seeking further information and support should log on to

    About Alexander Mann Solutions

    We are Alexander Mann Solutions and we’re passionate about helping companies and individuals fulfil their potential through talent acquisition and management. Today, over 4,000 of our talent acquisition and management experts are partnering with our blue-chip clients across multiple sectors and in more than 80 countries. Delivering a distinctive blend of outsourcing and consulting services, our unrivalled experience, capability and thought leadership helps our clients attract, engage and retain the talent they need for business success. 

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