In the past week, mental health in the workplace has been a strong talking point amongst mainstream media.

This is no surprise, especially with these alarming statistics:

• 1 in 6.8 people are experience mental health problems in the workplace (14.7%)

• Women in full-time employment are nearly twice as likely to have a common mental health problem as full-time employed men (19.8% vs 10.9%)

• Evidence suggests that 12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions

• 3 in 5 employees have talked to their manager about a mental health condition

• It is estimated the cost of mental ill-health to UK employers is £30 billion each year

• At any one time, one sixth of the working age population of Great Britain experience symptoms associated with mental ill health

• 57% of people who have a common mental disorder are currently working

• About 11 million people of working age in Great Britain experience mental health problems and about 5.5 million have a common mental disorder. However, only about 1.3 million of these people are being treated

Why employers might discriminate against people with mental ill health?

Employers shouldn’t discriminate against people who suffer with mental ill health but unfortunately it still happens. Some of reasons why include:

• £2.4 billion is lost replacing staff that leave work because of mental ill health

• Mental illness is accountable for 40% of all days lost through sickness absent

• Gaps in CVs

Economy

Economic recession appears to have a telling effect on people with mental health problems.

It would seem that in times of recession or when businesses aren’t thriving, they are forced to make cut backs meaning people who suffer from mental ill health don’t always receive adequate support from their employers.

Chronic Stress

Stress and anxiety can develop when people feel under pressure at work. Prolonged periods of stress can become serious and make existing mental health problems worse.

Chronic stress is the biological response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period where the individual perceives they have no control. Long-term exposure to stress can lead to high blood pressure, suppression of the immune system, and damage to mental health. Other symptoms of chronic stress can vary from anxiety, depression, social isolation, headache, abdominal pain, lack of sleep and difficulty concentrating. It is clear to see how such symptoms would intensify any pre-existing mental health problems.

It is in the best interests of employers and employees to avoid this situation, and create mentally healthy workplaces that are free from discrimination where well-being is a priority.

Financial Worries

Research seems to suggest work place stress and financial worries can both worsen the symptoms of mental ill health. When people are in fear of losing their jobs, it is highly possibly that both these factors will be present at the same time, and this will intensify the situation further. What we end up with is a melting pot of factors combining. A stressful workplace could lead to a person’s mental health worsening, and then they may lose their job which will increase financial worries. As well as a worse financial situation, losing your job could be interpreted as a form of social exclusion, which again will affect mental wellbeing and make it even more difficult to get another job.

• One in two adults with debt problems have mental health problems.

• 90% of people found financial difficulties make their mental health worse.

Perceived lack of control is a symptom of both depression and chronic stress. If money worries become overwhelming and you fear for your job security it is evident how somebody could feel out of control of a situation.

Stigma

There is still a stigma attached to mental ill health and the statistics below reinforce this:

• 40% of employers view workers with mental health conditions as a significant risk

• 42% of employers are still underestimating the prevalence of mental health in their workplace

• 72% of workplaces still have no formal mental health policy

• 90% of people admit they would be too scared to tell their boss if they felt unhappy and under too much pressure

People may be too scared to tell their boss as it may affect their job security. It is vital that people do not feel this way and that channels are available for people to talk about their mental health at work, as suffering in silence will only make it worse.

Often people think that employers and colleagues will react negatively if told that someone has a mental health problem. However, the law states that employers and others should not discriminate.

If people with mental ill health are to stop being stigmatised in the work place then education and understanding must be improved.

What can be done?

Our Chief Executive, Monica Shafaq firmly believes one of the solutions to this problem is to talk more about mental health, especially within the workplace.

She said: “We still need to remove the stigma attached to mental ill health by talking about it and the detrimental effects it can have.”

She added: “Whether you’re young or old, male or female mental health does not discriminate.

“It doesn’t matter where you live, how much money you earn or whether you work, mental ill health can affect anyone.”

Training

Here at The Kaleidoscope Plus Group we deliver training sessions to a variety of organisations in the private, voluntary and statutory sector across the UK.

Our training covers a wide variety of mental health issues, health and wellbeing and related issues for both employers and their employees, as well as individuals who are interested in maintaining their own wellbeing.

We provide both accredited training packages and bespoke packages to meet individual needs.

We also cover areas specifically for people working with children and young people and we can arrange sessions in schools with staff or directly with pupils.

We have a pool of trainers who are accredited to deliver Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), Mental Health First Aid Lite and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST).

To find out more about all the training we provide, please call us on 0121 565 5605 or click here.

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