How can recruitment combat mental health barriers?

Sheri Hughes is the Associate Director of Open Page, Page Group. Speaking out about mental health, Hughes explains what recruiters can do to help change its’ perception in the workplace.

“Recruiters have an important role to play in helping to alleviate the stigma around mental health in the workplace. The most effective ways of doing this is by simply raising awareness and encouraging positive and open conversations around mental health with both clients and candidates, in order to remove all barriers: physical and attitudinal.”

Hughes outlines the biggest barriers to alleviating mental health stigma in the workplace as being the way candidates may be “judged by recruiters and future employers for being affected by mental health issues”.

Although she made it clear: “Recruiters are not there to solve their [future employees] health issues,” there are many things that they can do to “normalise” the situation so that candidates understand it’s okay to talk about it. She explains that recruiters “can help invaluably by listening and being visible in their support”.

So, what are the fail-safes that recruiters can put in place for candidates?

“It’s about creating and ensuring there is a safe, accepting and inclusive environment in which people can be open at interviews, so they can be themselves without fear or limitation and be as honest as they can be,” she says.

Hughes explains the simple, yet effective, ways which recruiters can help candidates feel comfortable opening-up about their mental health issues. Even a small gesture can make all the difference, she says subtle things “such as using a certain pen from a mental health charity or wearing a bracelet which shows your concern for a particular cause” can help to foster an environment of genuine support for candidates.

“Additionally, recruiters must take the opportunity to educate their clients on the value of employing people with mental health, and help inform and implement better ways of assessing people with mental health issues than traditional interviewing methods – for example, with a written test or video interview, for many, the stress of an interview can be alleviated.”

She also stresses that it is important for employers to note that, “though a candidate or employee many not have a mental health issue when they join - it’s something that they can experience in their new or current role”.

She says that recruiters can help this by openly having resources available for those who need them – this could be anything from healthcare plans and counsellors to company activity around notable dates for promoting mental health activity.

She concludes: “By being open about having this kind of support system in place and by showcasing stories of current employees dealing with mental health issues, the conversation around mental health can be normalised between candidates, employees and employers”.

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