Research shows that in the last five years, the number of people who have experienced mental health issues while in employment has jumped significantly from a quarter to a third.
Despite this sharp rise, though, the majority of employees still feel as though more can be done by employers to help individuals with mental health issues.
The research, which was conducted by the professional body for HR and people development, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), found that out of more than 2,000 employees, 31% have had a mental health problem at some point in their working lives.
In 2011, the number of people who said the same was 26%, highlighting the significant increase that has occurred in just five years. Furthermore, 42% of this group said they have experienced a mental health problem in the last 12 months which has affected their health and wellbeing.
However, when asked how well their employer supported mental health issues less than half (46%) of respondents said ‘very’ or ‘fairly well’. Nevertheless, it should be noted that this actually represents an increase of 9% over 2011, when only 37% said their employers supported employees with mental health issues very or fairly well.
Worryingly, just four in 10 employees (44%) said they feel confident discussing unmanageable stress or mental health issues with their employer or direct line manager. This figure is very close to the number who said the same in 2011: 41%.
Rachel Suff, employment relations advisor at the CIPD, said: “With people’s experiences of mental health problems at work on the increase, it’s disappointing not to see more employers stepping up to address them. Mental health should get just as much attention, awareness and understanding as physical health, and employers have a responsibility to manage stress and mental health at work, making sure employees are aware of, and able to access, the support available to them.”
She added that mental health needs to be championed from the very top of an organisation by business leaders and senior staff. There’s also an important role for HR professionals and line managers to play in raising awareness about the importance of mental health and ensuring employees receive the support they need when they need it.
In addition, the CIPD survey asked employees what types of mental health support were available to them currently from their employer.
A phased return to work (32%) was the most common provision, followed by access to flexible working arrangements (30%); access to occupational health services (27%); and access to counselling services (27%).
Mental health first aiders (3%); mental health champions (5%); and training for line managers focused on managing and supporting people with mental health issues (10%) were the least common provisions.
Suff concluded by saying that employers often take a reactive approach to dealing with mental health issues, and that preventative steps to promote good mental wellbeing should be promoted more. She said that support should be available before an issue escalates to a point where the individual’s work is affected as a result.
There are many services available to employers which will help them in their Duty of Care to employees and also provide the support employees need for mental health issues.
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