Findings from a recent worldwide study conducted by Ipsos MORI have highlighted worrying levels of under-reporting in relation to mental health issues within the workplace. Nearly 4,000 employees from the UK, US, Australia and Canada took part in the survey commissioned by Teladoc Health.
Collated data from survey respondents provided clear indication that tackling mental health issues within the workplace remains extremely challenging. The headline statistic revealed that 82% of employees diagnosed with a mental health condition had not told their employer. Reasons cited for secrecy indicate the stigma associated with mental health issues remains high: 38% feared their career would be damaged, 22% worried that their professional reputation would be harmed, 21% were embarrassed and 17% believed their abilities may be questioned. A staggering 10% feared that disclosing a mental health issue could lead to dismissal.
Undoubtedly concerning results, especially when HSE figures in recent years highlight the rise in work-related stress and mental illness. In 2019 the HSE published data showing over 50% of lost days through illness could be attributed to either workplace anxiety or depression. The dominance of mental health issues were recorded for the first time in the 2017/18 HSE figures and this trend looks set to continue. More specifically, 12.69 million days were lost to mental health related issues in the UK during this period, accounting for 54% of the 23.5 million days lost overall. However, there may be some signs of encouragement as the most recent figures show a drop in both total lost days and stress related days from the prior year.
Justin Tomlinson, the UK Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work recently asserted: “We lose an estimated 300,000 people a year through mental health conditions and it is crystal clear that by using early intervention within the workplace it is significantly easier to support someone than once they’ve crashed out to try to rebuild their confidence to get them back into work.
“We need to increase the capacity of health support workers, not just for large organisations… but for those small and medium businesses that make up 40% of the private sector jobs.”
Tomlinson’s desire to increase mental health support and education are echoed by the findings of the Ipsos MORI report. Respondents were overwhelmingly in favour of increased workplace support and education: 43% believed not enough was being done in their workplace to increase awareness of mental health issues and 55% wanted improvements to mental health provision in their workplace.
The study also revealed that an open and transparent attitude to mental health in the workplace would help to normalise issues and increases employee confidence. Half of respondents believed if management were more open about their mental health issues it would help to alleviate the associated stigma. Around 45% of those surveyed affirmed that they would seek workplace help with mental health issues if there was a more open attitude to issues where they worked.