Mental health issues shockingly widespread at work - but HR can help

Mental health issues shockingly widespread at work - but HR can help

Almost half (48%) of UK employees have experienced a mental health issue at their current job, according to mental health charity Mind.

The survey of more than 44,000 workers found that only half of those who had experienced poor mental health had talked to their employer about it - which suggests that as many as one in four UK workers is struggling in silence.

However, the researchers also found that employers can make a hugely positive impact on the mental health of their workers. Managers who felt their employer supported their mental health, or actively built their skills in supporting team members with mental health problems, were far more likely to feel confident in promoting staff wellbeing.

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And manager confidence is closely linked with whether employees feel able to disclose their mental health concerns. Those staff who felt their manager supported their mental health or could spot the signs that someone might be struggling were far more likely to say they would be able to talk about their mental health at work.

“It’s clear from our research that when employers support their managers properly, it can make a big difference to the whole organisation,” said Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind.

“Even small changes to policy, approach and workplace culture can make a really big difference to the mental health of those around us.”

Alison Garbutt, Head of Strategic Projects at WHSmith, said her firm decided the best approach for them was to work with colleagues in HR and other staff to provide mental health awareness training for managers and store managers.

“Employers shouldn’t wait for staff to begin struggling with their mental health before they take action - acting quickly can prevent employees’ mental health worsening,” she explained. “But, too often, not knowing where to start can prevent employers prioritising workplace wellbeing. “

The research coincides with the launch of the new online Mental Health at Work gateway. Mind, with support from The Royal Foundation, Heads Together and 11 other organisations, has created the UK-wide portal as a free resource for both employers and employees.

António Horta-Osório is the Group Chief Executive of Lloyds Banking Group. She described the gateway as a “hugely impressive undertaking.”

“Our experience shows us that, with the right culture of support, employees can experience poor mental health at times, or live with an ongoing mental health condition, and still succeed and thrive at work,” she said. “As employers we have a real opportunity to change the way we approach mental health, giving our people the support they need to thrive.”

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