Mental health problems are very common in the workplace – so why don’t we talk about it more?

Mental health problems cost employers £30 billion a year in lost production, recruitment and absence[1]. In the UK, one in four people experience mental health problems each year[2]. You may even know someone who has had or is having difficulty coping at work.

We’re happy to chat about our physical injuries and even illness, but mental health is often considered one step too far. Talking about how we feel at work, whether it’s stress, anxiety or any other mental health concern, is something we just don’t do.

So it begs the question, why aren’t we doing more about it? In this blog I will explore the possible reasons why and what we can do to change that.

There’s still a taboo around mental health and confusion about what it means

Firstly, what is mental health? The Mental Health Foundation says if you’re in good mental health you can make the most of your potential, cope with life and play a full part in your family, workplace, community and among friends[3].

Mental health can and will be affected by many different things, from the worries you experience in everyday life (work, finances etc.), to more serious long-term conditions, such as depression. It can affect anyone at any time, and has nothing to do with how physically fit you are, your inherent personality or strength of mind.

Sadly, mental health problems are still viewed in a negative light. According to the Mental Health Foundation nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems feel that it is a stigma which has a negative effect on their lives[4].

The underlying issue is that a culture of silence around the topic still exists, both in the workplace and society as a whole.

Recent research found only 17% of people considered mental health issues a reason not to go to work[5]. With this perception prevalent in our workplaces, it’s easy to see why people are afraid to open up to their employer.

 

So how can we change the perception of Mental Health in the workplace?

What is encouraging is that employers are beginning to take mental health more seriously, which is fantastic, but more work needs to be done. According to Mind, 56% of employers would like to improve staff wellbeing but they don’t feel they have access to the right training or guidance to do so[6].

What we have to remember is that the fear of discussing a very sensitive subject can work both ways: managers need the right training, guidance and tools to discuss mental health with their employees from a position of knowledge; employees need a safe environment where they feel confident and comfortable talking about their mental health.

What’s next?

It’s clear that more needs to be done to tackle the negative perception that is associated with mental health problems and it shouldn’t be a topic we continue to shy away from. By making small changes to the way your organisation talks about mental health, you’ll be making big steps towards improving the health and well-being of your employees. And it’s no secret that a happy, healthy workforce is a more productive workforce.

If you want to find out what you can do now, visit Mind for more information and great free-to-use resources. We’ll also be sharing our top tips for improving mental health in the workplace, so look out for them in a future blog.

 

Sources:

[1] acas: Mental health
[2] Mind: Mental health facts and statistics
[3] Mental Health Foundation: What is Mental Health?
[4] Mental Health Foundation: Stigma and Discrimination
[5] Benenden: Wellbeing or woe-being?
[6] Mind: Taking care of your staff