May 17, 2020

CEO insight: How European businesses can tackle mental health stigma

mental health
Patient Care
Nathaniel Smithies
3 min
Counseling is one avenue of combating mental health stigma.
Mental health stigma continues to be a growing issue within the workplace. In fact, over two-fifths of employers have seen an increase in the number of...

Mental health stigma continues to be a growing issue within the workplace. In fact, over two-fifths of employers have seen an increase in the number of staff reporting mental health problems and almost half of employees, 40 percent, will experience anxiety about their work, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD).

The majority of employees who have disclosed a mental health condition have said that they experienced discrimination in their employment as a result, and most agree that this can be a bigger burden than the illness itself.

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According to our sister publication Business Review Europe, there are ways that business owners can combat stigma in their workplace.

Implement modern measures

Nathaniel Smithies, founder and CEO of online counseling platform PlusGuidance, told Business Review Europe that employers in particular possess a considerable amount of power, and have a responsibility to make an impact.

“One in four [people] will experience a mental health problem and more than two-thirds of individuals with a mental condition say that stigma and the fear of discrimination has prevented them from doing things they want to do,” said Smithies. “Businesses must implement modern measures if they are to transform the stigma of mental illness present in workplaces.”

RELATED TOPIC: This is how we can end mental health stigma around the world

Online counseling is one avenue of combating mental health stigma. Through online counseling, employees feel less pressured and anxious in the workplace and increase productivity.

“[PlusGuidance] provides a platform for people to receive immediate access to therapists, securely and discretely, which if implemented in business, could help employers to provide their staff with additional support.”

Additional measures

Healthy Working Wales (HWW) also offers the following tips for employers to consider having in place:

  • In consultation with key stakeholders, develop a corporate policy addressing mental wellbeing in the workplace that links across other related policies.
  • Build awareness through inter-related workplace campaigns.
  • Develop an approach to managing workplace stress based, incorporating the six key management standards identified by the HSE.
  • Provide training across three key levels:
  1. General awareness raising for all employees, including an understanding of stress, the effects of stress and how to recognize stress in yourself and others.
  2. More detailed training for those with key responsibilities in implementing the policy, including training for managers in recognizing stress and the effective management of someone identified as suffering from stress
  3. Introduce and train mental wellbeing link staff to offer a non-management route for staff to raise a mental wellbeing issue.

Company benefits

“It is estimated that 10.4 million working days are lost in the UK every year due to stress, and the average period of stress-related absence is 24 days,” reports HWW.

Employers who promote mental wellbeing in their company have reported seeing reduced stress and anxiety in their employees, increased productivity, lower rates of absenteeism, improvements in communications and a positive corporate image.

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“Whilst mental health stigma is changing, it is not happening quickly enough.  It’s clear that current methods are not as effective as hoped—but by providing a modern approach to mental health, we can reach more people and help support those in need,” concluded Smithies. 

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Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

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