Forum C

Mental health and leadership - practices and policies 

Businesses and other organisations - and their employees - are having to change the way they do things to maintain and improve their trading positions and services. But what is seen as an opportunity by some workers can be perceived as a threat by others, with an impact on their mental state and performance. In this Forum, we hear from a leading academic and about the experiences of some major companies in tackling this vital issue.

Almost one in four Europeans will suffer, at least once in his or her life, with mental health problems. Every year, about 10% of the EC population suffers from depression. Mental illnesses form only one part of a continuum of various ill health issues which are often classified as stress or stress-related in everyday working life. A series of surveys and other studies confirm the high and still rising levels of stress in today's world of work. Reduced job security, more insecure forms of employment and the general intensification of work – greater demands with insufficient latitude for action and a lack of personal, social support – make a substantial contribution to this. There is also growing conflict between the demands of the modern workplace and other areas of life (e.g. family, especially for women).

More and more workers, unless they already have the necessary skills and life experience, will be under pressure to 'self-develop'. This pressure, depending on various factors, including the personality of the person concerned, can translate into stress and mental health problems and affect their feelings of self-worth and confidence. Fear of failure and social exclusion can trigger a vicious circle which is difficult to break.

This situation has a double significance for managers. Not only do they have to manage their own pressures to safeguard their own mental health, but they can be one of the biggest factors influencing the well-being and health of their employees.
Organising work better and creating an environment which supports personal responsibility and self-initiative, with an appropriate latitude for action, plays a key part in this. Managers also have an important role in the reintegration of workers absent for a lengthy period owing to a mental illness.

Issues to be explored include:

  • The development of a 'best practice' corporate culture and company health policy designed to tackle the above challenges 
  • How best to reintegrate returning employees
  • The problem of mental ill-health stigmatisation 
  • What qualifications do managers need?
  • How can a trust-based culture be successfully developed under the present conditions in companies?




Speakers - Case Stories (30 / 31 October)


Input presenter:

  • Prof. Dr. Mansel Aylward
    Director, Centre of Psychosocial and Disability Research, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
  • Prof. Dr. José Peiró Silla
    Department of Social Psychology, University of Valencia, Spain

Case story presentations:

  • BT Group plc, United Kingdom:
    David Wallington
    Group Safety Advisor
  • GlaxoSmithKline, United Kingdom:
    Dr. Ian Wright
    Director, Planning, Effectiveness and Productivity, Employee Health Management
  • MTU Aero Engines GmbH, Germany:
    Dr. Rolf-Wilhelm Neuser
    Head of Corporate Services, Health Management, FPG
  • Salzgitter AG, Germany:
    Dr. Christoph Kröger
    Clinical Director of the Outpatient Clinic, Institute of Psychology, Technical University of Brunswick, Germany
  • The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, United Kingdom:
    Helen Lockett
    Research and Development Manager, Employment Programme

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