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Avoiding the Elephant in the Room-Mental Health in the Workplace Needs to be a Priority for Business

Mental health impacts probably everyone’s life at some stage or another. It may be personal and friend to family member. No one goes untouched by it. Its consequences are vast and can impact on so many individuals. in the workplace the statistics are quite stark:

  • 9 out of 10 people experience the stigma of mental health problems
  • Anxiety and depression is the most common mental problem
  • 70 million working days are lost each year due to mental health resulting in considerable cost to employers and organisations
  • Only 50% of employees felt they could talk to their managers about their mental illness
  • 56% of individuals would not employ a person with a mental health problem even if they were the right candidate
  • Anxiety and depression has increased by 24% over the last 6 years
  • Stress prompts nearly 25% of employees to consider resigning from their jobs

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Low mood, depression and anxiety are some of the most common mental health problems in the workplace. All levels of business have its pressures and individuals have different coping strategies (healthy and unhealthy!). Acknowledging to a colleague that one is struggling or has a mental health problem can be challenging.Often old behavioural patterns of stoicism and the fear of appearing ‘weak’ when suffering from mental health problem may leave individuals feeling guilty, vulnerable and isolated. Sadly, this can actually exacerbate their mental health problem and may lead to longer and unnecessary periods of illness, absenteeism and social isolation.

Sadly one survey suggests that nearly 66% of employees when calling in unwell have said they would not cite or reveal it was related to a mental health problem. The stigma associated with mental health in the workplace can leave individuals fearing that this may compromise their job or even hold them back from further career development.

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As a colleague and a decision maker, it’s important that you don’t ignore your own concerns about your personal health or the mental health of your colleagues. It is also important to understand that if you do suffer from a mental health problem you’re not on your own. In fact, it is so common that 1 in 7 people experience mental health problems in the workplace.

Small things like being irritable, withdrawing at home or drinking more than usual may be signs. Are your feelings or physical symptoms affecting you at work? Can you put your finger on situations, environments or anything in particular that triggers how you feel? Maybe not having a break, missing lunch, working considerably longer hours or a difficult colleague?

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If you do need help go seek it out, talk to your GP, Nurse or Call one of the many mental health charities to be signposted in the direction that suits your individual needs. Don’t try trivialising or apologising when discussing your issues with your manager or healthcare professional.

It may take a while to feel comfortable discussing personal issues but be honest and open that is the first step to getting the right support.

1 in 7 people experience mental health problems in the workplace

If you’re a manager try to adopt an environment that fosters trust and openness to support individuals. Your team needs to know that mental health issues are not off-limits. Try to develop create a culture in your workplace where everyone can feel empowered to openly discuss and speak out about their own problems.

The reality is that the vast majority of mental health problems are managed well by those who suffer from them.

No one expects that employers are primary care providers for those with mental health problems but they can certainly be aware and supportive of an individual’s needs. The ultimate goal is education and removing the negative stereotypes and stigma associated with mental health. Mental health awareness training is fundamental for all employees and HR advisors. This ultimately develops into a workplace that fosters acceptance and is supportive of each other.

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This change in culture and attitude leads to a greater awareness of mental health and also empowers those who suffer from it. The organisation benefits by seeing a reduction in sickness, absence and presenteeism and creates a safe supportive working environment that is all-inclusive.

Mental health all part of being human, its part of life