Managing mental health issues in the workplace may be a bigger concern than many employers believe, as many employees’ problems are not recognised or dealt with, according to new research.
The Mental Resilience survey of nearly 2,000 working adults across the country, conducted by health insurer Westfield Health and released to mark Mental Health Awareness Week (16 – 22 May), found that while 60% admitted that mental health issues affect their everyday life, half of those who’ve experienced a problem did not take time off work.
Furthermore, 50% said they felt their workplace ‘does not manage mental health issues well’ and 40% of UK employees say they have experienced a mental health issue due to the negative impact of a physical ailment.
Westfield Health’s executive director, Dave Capper, said: “These findings show that, when it comes to managing mental health in the workplace, employers face a much bigger problem than first appears.
“When a mental health issue arises due to the negative impact of a physical ailment, there is a worry that the mental element will be masked by the physical problem and go undetected and unaddressed. Often the physical illness will be treated and openly talked about, but the mental element may be hidden.
“These findings lead us to believe employers face a ‘mental health iceberg’, with only a small proportion of mental health problems being recognised and managed, and a much larger proportion of issues remaining hidden below the surface.
“To add to this, the majority (63%) are also calling for employers and employees to share responsibility and to do more to manage mental resilience and mindfulness in the workplace.
“Although we’re seeing improvements in mental health provision in general, it seems workplaces are lagging behind, and this gap needs to be addressed.
“It’s time for employers to put more of a focus on managing mental health in the workplace.”
Brian Dow, director of external affairs at Rethink Mental Illness, added: “Work is such an important part of so many people’s sense of identity and self-worth, but there seems to be this great chasm between staff and managers when it comes to dealing with mental illness in the workplace.
“On the one hand we have bosses who don’t feel equipped to support their staff properly, and on the other we have employees who don’t feel they can approach their managers, and sometimes even feel they need to lie about why they are having time off, often citing a physical health problem instead.
“It’s important for people to feel they can talk about mental health in the workplace. It could be something like setting time aside in one-to-ones to ask your employees how they are doing both in and outside of work, developing work – life balance initiatives, or equipping managers to recognise the signs of common mental illness conditions.
“The business cost of mental ill health among the UK workforce is thought to total £26 billion and, although this issue has been swept under the carpet in the past, it is now a concern which employers are reaching out and asking for help about.”