New research by Benenden has revealed the extent to which mental health remains a taboo subject in the healthcare sector, with only 8% of employees admitting they would confide in their employer if they suffered with an illness.
Although mental health policies are becoming more prevalent in the workplace – 62% of employees claimed to be aware of their company’s policy – only a fifth of staff claimed their employer regularly engages with them on mental health. Worryingly, one in 10 (12%) said their company’s policy was simply not enforced.
Mental health has been put in the spotlight in recent times, with the public made aware of the multitude of illnesses. Within the healthcare sector, Stress (48%), anxiety (45%), sleeping disorders (45%) and panic attacks (23%) are among the most common mental health conditions affecting UK workers.
The research from Benenden, which is presented in a new Mental Health Report published today, revealed that almost a half of those working in the healthcare sector blame an increased workload (46%) for mental health-related illnesses. Echoing the thoughts of others working in the sector, one employee said: “The workload is the biggest source of stress; there are never enough staff and there is too much to do.”
And alarmingly, 15% said workplace bullying was the main cause – significantly higher than the average (10%) across all industry sectors.
What more can employers do?
More than a half (56%) of employees said that they wanted retailers to provide help and support. And with the majority of employees (39%) revealing that they would approach their line manager if they needed to confide in someone at work, nine in 10 (88%) would like their managers to have mental health awareness training.
However, one employee summed up why so few actually do disclose anything to their colleagues: “I would first worry about people finding out, then I’d worry about losing my job. You’d have to really trust your manager before saying anything.” As a result, seven in 10 workers (69%) revealed that they would use a confidential helpline if they were experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.
Alarm bells for employers
Highlighting the impact that a poor mental health policy can have on a retail business, almost a half of employees (49%) revealed that they would seek alternative employment if their employer didn’t provide support in relation to mental health conditions.
Absence remains a major concern for businesses, costing the economy an estimated £18bn every year according to the Centre of Economic and Business Research. Today’s research, reveals that, on average, employees in the healthcare sector suffering from a mental health-related illness take 9.5 days leave, with three in five (60 percent) taking more than 10 days.
Helen Smith, Head of Wellbeing Strategy at Benenden, commented:
“A lot of work has been done to lift the stigma attached to mental health, but clearly employees still feel reticent about talking about illnesses in the workplace. Fear of what might happen is one reason, but the major concern is the number of businesses that have no clear support system in place to help staff overcome their illnesses.
“It is important for employers to start creating a culture of openness that enables employees to talk about their about mental health. Training is a necessity for all those who manage people and tools that provide valuable advice and support, such as helplines and counselling, are hugely beneficial.
“Mental health is not a myth, it is a real life problem that affects almost everyone. It is time for companies of all sizes to make it an essential part of their long term human resources strategy. If no action is taken it is not just the employee that will suffer, businesses around the country will be impacted by rising absence and a disengaged workforce.”
To download Benenden’s full Psychological Wellbeing Report please visit here.