Blog post: World Mental Health Day and Apprentices


9 Oct 2017

by Charlotte Little, peer facilitator.

What is World Mental Health Day?

This year’s theme for World Mental Health Day is ‘Workplace Wellbeing’ and to raise awareness I thought it would be a good opportunity to discuss the mental wellbeing of apprentices in the workplace. I wanted to explore this issue because it needs urgent attention – so keep reading if you too feel passionate about this topic.

What needs to be addressed?

Very recently there have been a number of studies published, indicating to us that mental health issues are growing amongst young people. One statistic which really stood out was from UCL Institute of Education and the University of Liverpool, who found that 24% (1 in 4) girls and 9% (1 in 10) boys experience depression at the age of 14. This is something which mustn’t be ignored, in fact Professor Emla Fitzsimons, Director of the Millennium Cohort Study, said that:

“These stark findings provide evidence that mental health problems among girls rise sharply as they enter adolescence; and, while further research using this rich data is needed to understand the causes and consequences of this, this study highlights the extent of mental health problems among young adolescents in the UK today.”

Additionally we know apprenticeships are becoming more widely available and many young people are encouraged to take this route. But what does this mean for young apprentices, with the increasing rate of ill mental health and wellbeing? It is more important now than ever to ensure that young people are fully supported whilst entering the world of work and throughout their apprenticeship.

Why specifically apprentices?

Research has shown that those with a mental health condition find it harder to secure another job, after falling out of work. In fact, it has shown to be harder for these individuals than those with physical disabilities. For young people to be successful and grow, it is essential that their work environment is a place where they feel confident, safe and comfortable. It is easy to forget that entering the world of work is incredibly daunting and  there is a ‘work code’ – many young people and apprentices may find the work transition difficult to adjust to, particularly with a lack of effective support.

The mental health stigma

Unfortunately there is still a strong stigma around the topic of mental health and this has proven to be a barrier for young people. Time to Change found that 1 in 10 young people will experience ill mental health and of these 90% will experience stigma – this is worryingly high and it is this stigma which will prevent young people from seeking help. Not only that, but it means they are more likely to give up and lose hope. So, it’s time to take action.

Employers, how can you help?

Mind reported that ‘56% of employers said they would like to do more to improve staff wellbeing’ – it is known to employers that mental health is something that needs to be tackled in the workplace. Although organisations understand the implications of mental health in the workplace, it can be difficult to build a mentally healthy work environment.

 

Five tips for employers to support apprentices

  1. Staff must be trained in helping apprentices to build important skills, such as self-esteem, resilience, and critical thinking skills. There is mental health first aid training available which gives employers  knowledge in how to support young people who suffer from ill-mental health.
  2. A very simple and easy tip would be to encourage screen breaks throughout the day and to get out and about during their lunch break – it is easy for young people to feel overworked. Getting fresh air and going for a walk helps to boost mental wellbeing, so why not?
  3. Implement a tailored, in-depth induction process for apprentices, which introduces them to the basic ways of working in an office. It may seem basic, but during a daunting and uncertain time, young people will really appreciate this!
  4. Introduce ‘Wellbeing Champions’ who are there to support apprentices and give them the opportunity to be open and talk comfortably about what’s going on with them.
  5. Offer training which will help set them up for the future. The NYA are working with the Money Advice Service to provide financial capability training for apprentices – if young people can feel happier about their finances this will be one less factor impacting on their wellbeing.

 

Take home message

It is important to remember that these tips will not solve mental health issues amongst young people and apprentices. There is a long way to go but small changes can make a difference. Just remember, it is a challenging time for all young people so providing the right support now is crucial for them to thrive and be successful as adults.