Two-thirds of employees have experienced mental ill health caused by work



But ‘millions suffer in silence’, as less than two per cent say they discussed their problems with HR

Employers have been urged to give line managers mental health training after a poll showed more than four-in-five people had suffered symptoms where work was partly to blame.

In a poll of more than 20,000 people by charity Business in the Community (BITC), 62 per cent said they had experienced physical, psychological or behavioural symptoms of poor mental health where work was a contributing factor, with nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of all employees saying they had experienced symptoms in the last month alone.

Just 11 per cent of employees had discussed their problems with their line manager, and only a quarter said they felt able to talk to someone at work, such as a colleague, line manager, or HR practitioner.

Despite three-in-four line managers (76 per cent) accepting that employee wellbeing was their responsibility, fewer than one-in-four (22 per cent) have had any training on mental health at work, according to the report. One third of line managers said they felt that senior managers and HR departments had either been ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ supportive when they managed someone with poor mental health.

The majority of workers (86 per cent) said fears around interfering, or not knowing what to do, prevented them from approaching a colleague they were worried about. Two-fifths of line managers said they weren’t confident in responding to symptoms such as panic attacks and depression, although 77 per cent said they were confident in responding to cases of stress.

Louise Aston, wellbeing director at Business in the Community, said: “Millions of employees are suffering in silence and feel unable to share their experiences at work. When they do reach out, many are met with an inadequate response.

“Our findings show that we need more openness, more training and information, and more support for employees and managers. This is why we are asking employers to take three steps – talk, train and take action.”

Line managers said a lack of adequate training (32 per cent), not enough time for one-to-one meetings (26 per cent and having to focus on performance targets (22 per cent) prevented them from supporting employees with mental health problems.

Although 23 per cent of employees surveyed said they had access to an employee assistance programme (EAP), just two per cent had used it during their most recent instances of mental ill health, and less than two per cent spoke to HR about their problems.

Aston urged employers to take a preventative approach to tackling poor mental health at work. “This means getting the work culture right in the first place so that they promote good work and work-life balance,” she said

“Progress will only happen when employers approach mental ill health as they would physical ill health – doing what they can to prevent ill health occurring or escalating, and ensuring proper support for employees when it happens.

“Employees must feel that the workplace is supportive of, rather than detrimental to, their mental health.”

Helen Tucker, HR director at P&G Northern Europe, said the report was an important part of raising public and employer awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing and the critical role of line managers.

“We believe it is key to embed mental health awareness into line manager training so that they can best fulfil their responsibilities and take care of the people in their teams,” she said.

Employers are being encouraged to sign the Time to Change Employer Pledge, a campaign run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, which aims to help organisations create action plans to boost employee mental wellbeing.

People Management recently launched the End the Stigma campaign, which encourages HR and L&D practitioners to open up about their experiences with mental health conditions. Read their stories and contribute your own on our microsite.


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