At Passion Digital, we care about supporting mental health in the workplace and enabling others to do the same. As more research is being done around the topic of mental health, employers are becoming increasingly equipped to understand the impact of mental health at work and to create a supportive environment.
According to Health and Safety Executive, an astonishing 57% of annual UK working days are lost in sick leave due to mental health disorders. A recent study conducted by online health service Babylon Health sheds light on the personal experiences of individuals with mental health problems.
Their data revealed that a staggering 79% of Brits would not feel comfortable speaking to their employer about their own mental health, while 72% think mental health is not discussed enough where they work.
Improving Mental Health Support for Staff
Dr Claudia Pastides, GP at Babylon Health, suggests that there are two key areas where employers can improve their mental health support for staff.
The first, she refers to as ‘mental health literacy’ – having the right knowledge and beliefs about mental health problems. This knowledge will help employees, colleagues and managers recognise the signs of poor mental health at work and manage or prevent further problems. “We know that early recognition and intervention is best when it comes to mental health,” says Dr Pastides.
Dr Pastides suggests holding mental health awareness days and mental health literacy training for both managers and employees.
The second area Dr Pastides suggests employers can improve in is encouraging open conversations and support when needed. “Reducing the stigma around mental health is important, as is early identification and access to support,” she recommends. Ways to address this include:
- Training up mental health first aiders in the workplace
- Offering access to an advice line or psychotherapy service to all employees
- Offering access to medical services or establishing links with local mental health services
How Employees Are Dealing with Mental Health at Work
Josh*, 26, from London opens up about his experience in dealing with mental health at work: “I think all offices could benefit from discussing mental health more openly. It can be a difficult subject, but I think a lot of people would be surprised to find how many of their colleagues struggle with the same problems as them.”
Statistics state that approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, however Babylon Health’s survey shows that just 25% of Brits would feel comfortable discussing their mental health with a work colleague.
The survey also asked the public what factors had previously impacted their mental health. ‘Workplace pressures’ were listed as the second-largest cause, behind ‘personal relationships’. ‘A poor work-life balance’ also made the list.
Josh* explains: “We like to think that we are professionals and can completely switch off from these [mental health] issues when we work, but this is not always the case.”
He adds: “My role is creative and therefore offers lots of time for freethought, and this can often have a negative effect on my mental health if things aren’t right in my life.”
Marina*, 27, from Manchester, explains how her mental health issues are hard to separate from her professional life: “For me it can be difficult to leave personal relationships and issues outside of work, as a lot of the time they are directly linked. Working in [the] media makes it hard to avoid crossover between work life and personal life, as circles are closely linked and everybody knows everybody.”
Reducing Mental Health Stigma at Work
Babylon Health asked respondents where in everyday life they thought mental health issues are stigmatised. Over half (57%) of the public said ‘at their place of work’. ‘In British society’ was the most voted for, with 71% of respondents selecting this option.
24-year-old Sandra* from Bristol stresses the importance of working somewhere where your mental health feels supported, and further highlights the steps that you can take to raise the discussion at work: “Firstly, reach out to HR and a trusted colleague (preferably a manager) – gauge their response. Workplaces love to tout an inclusive work environment and jump on the mental health awareness bandwagon but crumble when they’re put in a position to put their money/integrity where their mouth is. Save yourself the frustration, guilt and shame and find a new role. Support needs to happen at home and at work – it’s not just on you.”
She adds: “If you meet employers who want to question the law just remember that you are the priority and you really don’t owe your mental wellbeing to anyone – don’t compromise on your happiness. There are plenty of employers who do get it and understand how to prioritise wellbeing at work.”
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals