Mental health - the elephant in the room - Business Works
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Mental health - the elephant in the room

by Dave Capper, Executive Director, Westfield Health Nearly a third (30%) of UK employees feel unsure about who to talk to or where to find help or support regarding metal health issues. In addition, nearly 40% find it hard to talk to or open up about their mental health to anyone, says Dave Capper, Executive Director, Westfield Health about their new research.

Mental health problems are common, in fact one in four people every year will be affected by a mental health issue and stress has now become the most common reason for workers being signed off long-term sick.

Our survey polled nearly 2000 working adults across the country and the research provides an in-depth insight into employees' views about mental health at work.

Our research shows that people rarely feel they can talk openly about these types of issues in the workplace. Some respondents reported colleagues being more aware of mental health problems, but lacking the understanding around the issues. Others reported feeling like colleagues were 'walking on egg shells' around them when they returned to work after a period of absence due to mental ill health.

We need to tackle this culture head on. Just as we would talk openly about a physical ailment with our colleagues, it should be acceptable to talk about mental health problems without the worry of facing stigma and discrimination as a result.

According to our research, 32% of employees feel they were treated differently by their line manager after returning to work following absence related to mental ill health, and 20% also felt their fellow colleagues' attitudes towards them had changed.

When asked how they were treated differently, as well as talking about people around them 'walking on egg shells', people commented that it made 'me feel low and not want to speak to anyone'. Another typical comment was, 'Due to the nature of my ill health colleagues were not sure how to approach me or what to say'.

Employees reported not knowing who to talk to or where to turn, often feeling isolated and lost and a quarter of those surveyed believed that admitting you have a mental health issue shows weakness. Furthermore, our research found that the emotionally fit appear to be out of step with those who've experienced a mental health issue, with respondents stating that colleagues didn't know how to broach the subject when they returned to work and regularly feeling like there was 'an elephant in the room'.

So, while mental health is becoming much more talked about in general, it's clear that improvements still need to be made.

Time to Talk Day is part of the anti-stigma campaign Time to Change and it aims to help end the misconceptions around mental health by breaking the silence around it and getting the nation talking. We are encouraging employees across the nation to talk, engage and support #timetotalk.

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