William urges employers to take mental health seriously

The Duke of Cambridge has called on employers to take mental health seriously as he highlighted research that shows only a tiny proportion of workers contact HR departments about the issue.

William said a "mere 2%" of people visit human resources as he gave details about a new project to create an online portal to help staff and bosses improve workplace wellbeing.

Speaking in London at the global headquarters of Unilever - a supporter of the duke's Heads Together mental health campaign - the royal told invited guests work can provide a "great sense of fulfilment" and at times "be a significant source of stress".

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He added: "Yet, data from the Heads Together campaign showed that the number of people who would feel able to talk to their HR departments about their mental health was a mere 2%. This illustrates a problem for businesses.

"For me, this is personal. I worked in a job as an air ambulance pilot quite recently where along with my colleagues I dealt with traumatic and stressful situations.

"But in my place of work, mental health was taken very seriously. We could be open about our experiences and could support our colleagues when they needed it, including very thorough debriefs. We knew how to talk about pressure and knew where to direct each other for help.

"That is what we need in every workplace in this country."

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He explained his Royal Foundation and the charity Mind would be launching a new Workplace Wellbeing Programme in September to support employers - in particular small to medium enterprises (SMEs), who struggle to find the resources to deal with workplace mental health.

The initiative would include an online portal of resources for employers, along with online training for SME employees.

Paul Farmer, Mind's chief executive officer, told the guests: "One in six people go to work with a mental health problem. We know that far too many people are still too scared to talk about their mental health at work.

"And we know about the human cost of that consequence, 300,000 people every year falling out of work as a result of poor mental health, the equivalent of the population of Newcastle or Belfast."