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In 2017/18 in the UK, over 15.4 million working days were missed due to stress, anxiety or depression costing businesses up to £1,035 per employee.
Despite increased awareness of mental ill health and the topic being more talked about than ever before, Claudia Cooney, Lead Director at RightTrack Learning, argues that the UK still faces a significant challenge in changing the perception and management of mental health at work.
She explains: “It’s counterintuitive to talk about mental health separately to physical health – when both are integral to our wellbeing. Over the last year 61% of employees have experienced mental ill health where work was a related factor, and one in six of these workers were prescribed anti-depressants.
“If you ask a colleague how they are, you are far more likely to hear ‘Ok but my back’s playing up’ or ‘I’ve got a splitting headache’, than ‘I’m feeling so overwhelmed I sat in the car at lunch and cried’ or ‘much better since I started taking anti-depressants’.”
Despite the efforts of a series of hard-working mental health charities and advocacy from government, celebrities and the royal family, the statistics around the impact of poor mental health are still damning:
• Suicide remains the leading cause of death among young people aged 20-34 years in the UK
• UK has the highest self-harm rate of any European country
• Just 13% of employees would be comfortable talking about mental ill health at work
• Up to 300,000 people with mental ill health lose their jobs each year
• Last year, mental ill health cost the UK economy £94 billion
This year’s State of the Profession research revealed:
• Around a quarter (23%) of PR practitioners have taken sickness absence from work on the grounds of stress, anxiety or depression
• More than a fifth (21%) of respondents said they had a diagnosed mental health condition
• Over half (53%) said work contributed highly to their diagnosis, with unrealistic deadlines and unsociable hours cited as common causes
Worryingly, the report showed a significant number of line-managers fail to address mental health concerns amongst employees. Almost a quarter (23%) of respondents who discussed concerns about their mental health with a manager said that nothing happened as a result of those conversations.
GBW Company Director, Michelle Wright, said: “This is a very real issue for our sector. It is in everyone’s best interests to support good mental and physical health. Your team is your biggest asset – look after their wellbeing and together you can achieve.”
“Unfortunately, rolling out a token e-learning course, putting Table Football in a recreational space and giving everyone their birthday off doesn’t necessarily mean you have employee wellbeing sorted and mental health on a level playing field with physical health.
Any organisation, no matter what size, can and should gather intel on how their employees feel; levels of engagement and happiness, anonymous feedback on what works and what doesn’t and elements of the company culture that don’t support wellbeing. It should be straightforward to gather both quantitative and qualitative data on absence and retention. Understanding where you are as a business – where you really are – enables you to plan and prioritise actionable objectives.”