Employers' approach to mental illness is 'too often secretive and dismissive'
January 21, 2016
A third of UK workers say their organisation has a negative approach to mental health problems, with terms like “secretive”, “awkward” and “dismissive” used to describe the way companies deal with staff who are facing difficulties.
Over half of UK employees (57%) have suffered from mental health issues while in employment, the study by Canada Life Group Insurance found.Almost a third (32%) of employees believe their organisation provides no support for those experiencing a mental health problem and a quarter (25%) are unaware of the type of support their organisation offers. The reseach suggests that even when help is available, companies are failing to communicate it effectively.
Over one in ten (13%) employees say their organisation is dismissive and doesn’t take mental health problems seriously, while 12% say their organisation is uncomfortable and awkward when dealing with the subject. A further 8% say their employer is secretive about mental health, with no-one ever talking about it.
Just one in twenty (5%) say their organisation is helpful when dealing with mental health and more than one in ten (12%) employees received a negative response after speaking to their employer about mental health issues, according to the findings. This might explain why less than half (47%) of employees suffering from mental health have opened up to their employer.
Occupational health service and counselling services (both 23%) are the most common forms of support to be offered. However, fewer than one in five employees (18%) know they have access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) which seeks to identify and manage problems before they develop into issues that result in absence from work.
One in five (22%) employees would like a trained, designated member of staff to discuss problems with and 19% would like counselling services. Half of people who’ve experienced a mental health issue while in work (51%) agree UK employers need to do more to encourage good mental health among their staff.Almost a quarter (24%) say people with mental health problems are discriminated against in the workplace, indicating that drastic changes are needed.
Paul Avis, marketing director of Canada Life Group, says: “A worrying lack of understanding around mental health is emerging in the working world. “It is crucial for employers to communicate with employees so they understand they won’t be penalised or treated differently if suffering from mental health problems. The sheer lack of awareness of mental ill health in the workplace is a very worrying trend when you consider over 50% of people experience these types of problems.
“Employees must feel able to confide in their employers when struggling with depression, anxiety or any other mental health conditions so they can receive whatever support they need. Failing to promote the importance of wellbeing or enhancing the stigma of mental ill health among employees will have a negative impact on collective morale and individual recovery in the long term.
“Far too few organisations have a clear programme to support those suffering from mental ill health and even fewer have communicated this effectively to their staff.”