Despite a quarter of people in the UK experiencing some kind of mental health issue each year, it is still seen as a taboo subject which people don’t like to talk about. We need to ask why, as after all, such an important issue needs to be tackled head-on if we are to remove the stigma that is often associated with it.
The truth is that unlike many other subjects, mental health is even a difficult topic for influential individuals like celebrities to discuss. Robin Williams’ untimely suicide as a result of dementia thrust the issue of mental health firmly into the public spotlight, but it seems that in a workplace environment, the taboo is still very much alive.
In fact, research has shown that four in 10 people have experienced depression, stress or anxiety in the past year, but not informed their employer. A further 25 per cent took time off work and cited physical reasons for the absence, when it was actually due to a mental health issue. These eye-opening statistics show that many people are suffering in silence with issues that they should really be seeking help with. The fact that some people can’t even tell their employers speaks volumes for the perception of mental health as a subject.
By breaking down the communication barriers and stigma that are associated with mental health issues it will improve both staff wellbeing and overall business success. Therefore, it is in a company’s interest to raise awareness of mental health and ensure that their staff receive any help and support required.
Mental health is an issue that needs to be championed from the very top of every organization, so that it gets the full attention it deserves. This is crucial as it serves to lessen the stigma associated with mental health and allows employees to open up more about their own situations. Businesses can appoint a mental health champion, an individual of executive standing who can act as an advocate to the entire firm’s efforts to tackling mental health issues.
Furthermore, adequate training should be provided to staff, especially line managers, to help them better recognise any signs of mental health issues in their staff. This will also serve to raise awareness of the problem further and give line managers the necessary tools that they need to deal with mental health issues.
There are a wealth of resources available from organisations such as Business in the Community, Mind and the Time to Change campaign. Businesses should look to utilise these wherever possible and build an internal culture that is focussed on tackling mental health issues.
Who knows, maybe one day mental health issues will be seen in the same light as physical problems when it comes to workplace absence. This can only be achieved through increased awareness and more open channels of communication.
At Premier Choice we have for many years highlighted the gradual shift from musculo skeletal to mental health absence as the main threat to employers. This introduced the term ‘presenteeism’ to us and now we are seeing evidence to support this with significant numbers of claims being submitted. There is no simple solution to this, but as a starting point it is vital that employers review their wellness strategy. Please contact us to discuss how Premier Choice can help you.
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