Traditionally, mental health has been a taboo subject within the workplace, surrounded by a culture of silence and lack of understanding. However, as the number one cause of sickness absence and with an average of 15million working days lost annually due to stress, depression and anxiety alone, organisations have had to start tackling the taboo through better knowledge and understanding of this complex condition.
The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day, is Mental Health in the Workplace and our Associate Director of mental Health Services, Alan Bradshaw, has been online doing a bit of media monitoring around the subject. Check out his thoughts on what he discovered below…
The BBC published a very interesting article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-41125009 which highlights the scale of the mental health crisis across the UK.
Several trends are notable and, of course, these issues affect people at work too. Non-work issues don’t necessarily cause work-related stress but they do make people more vulnerable generally to stress-related illness, which often manifests itself in absence, poor performance or presenteeism.
There are more people experiencing severe mental illness than before, and this rise has largely been driven by the increase in women experiencing problems. This doesn’t tell the whole story though as its men who are 3 times more likely to commit suicide. This is certainly an increasing issue in sectors such as construction and engineering.
Nature or Nurture?
The data suggest that mental health problems often start very early in life, and there’s increasing evidence that young people generally are under more pressure than before due the always-on social media, as can be seen in this article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-wales-41361496/social-media-exacerbates-young-mental-health-problems – It’s easy to think you’re a failure when you see what a wonderful life everybody else has! The impact of smartphones and devices on mental health shouldn’t be underestimated.
Lack of funding
Sadly, mental health funding has long been the poor relation and services are under extreme strain. In fact, NHS mental health professionals are themselves experiencing worryingly high rates of stress, anxiety and depression as can be seen in this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-41172805 – We clearly aren’t caring very well for our carers! Access to psychological therapies, waiting times, quality of services, and distance to travel are all issues for many people. Organisations can make a huge difference by providing access to high-quality services, locally, more quickly.
It’s not all bad news
Workplace wellbeing programmes have increased by 24% since 2015 with recent research by the BITC demonstrating that companies who invest in their employee’s mental wellbeing have a more, engaged and resilient workforce resulting in a decrease in sickness absence.
We all need to face up to the issue, have some courage and speak out. It starts by being honest. The reality is that mental health shapes all our lives. We all have mental health, even if we don’t all experience severe problems.
As it’s World Mental Health Day today, let’s all start a conversation. It’s about time we did.