UK workplaces face ‘mental health iceberg’

The problem is bigger than you think

More than a third (38 per cent) of UK employees say their working environment is having a negative effect on their mental state of mind, and one in two feel that their workplace ‘does not manage mental health issues well’.

The findings, from the Mental Resilience survey conducted by health insurer Westfield Health, have been released to mark Mental Health Awareness Week (16 – 22 May).

Whilst 60 per cent admitted that mental health issues affect their everyday life, a half of those who’ve suffered from a mental health issue did not take time off work.

Commenting on the results of the survey of nearly 2,000 working adults across the country, Westfield Health’s Executive Director, Dave Capper, said: “The findings show that when it comes to managing mental health in the workplace, employers face a much bigger problem than first appears.

“Not only are workers reporting that their place of work is impacting negatively on their mental state of mind, but the majority (63 per cent) are also calling for employers and employees to share responsibility and to do more to manage mental resilience and mindfulness in the workplace.

50% of workplaces in the UK are not managing mental health issues well.

“Our research also found that, for 40 per cent of workers, a mental health issue had arisen due to the negative impact of a physical ailment. This means that the mental health issue might be going undetected and unaddressed by employers. Often the physical illness will be treated and openly talked about, but the mental element may be masked.

“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.

“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 is time for employers to put equal focus on managing mental health and physical health in the workplace.”

Commenting on the findings, Brian Dow, Director of External Affairs at Rethink Mental Illness said:

“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.”

Released by HR Media Ltd on behalf of Westfield Health. For more information please contact Richard Fidler or Eleanor Head on 0114 252 7760.

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