A government report released today has found that up to 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems have to leave their jobs each year.
The report concludes that poor mental health costs the UK economy nearly £99 billion each year, as awareness of mental disorders and employee health increasingly come into focus in national media.
Shining a light on the real-world impact of depression and anxiety in the workplace, the study reveals hundreds of thousands of people retreating from their career over stress and mental health issues, highlighting a damaging lack of support from businesses to assist their employees.
Prime Minister Theresa May, who commissioned the report, said it showed “we need to take action”. She is asking NHS England and the civil service to accept the report’s recommendations.
The forty recommendations in question advise employers and the government on how they can better support suffering employees to stay in work and get the help they need, such as through creating an online wellbeing portal and using digital technology to support workers in the gig economy.
Companies are also being encouraged to include a section on employee mental health in their annual reports. Currently only 11 per cent of companies do this, the report found.
“Opportunities are missed to prevent poor mental health and ensure that employees who may be struggling get the support they need.
“In many instances employers simply don’t understand the crucial role they can play, or know where to go for advice and support.”
In a worrying study from events company Wildgoose, less than half of people who have called in sick due to health issues would admit that they were suffering, with 43 per cent simply carrying on as normal and not communicating their problems.
Liam Butler, vice president of corporate sales EMEA, SumTotal, says, “Despite increased focus and efforts, we are still a long way from regarding or treating mental and physiological health as the same. We need to help to reduce the secrecy and stigma surrounding mental health issues, encourage employees to step forward if they are having mental health problems and make employers reconsider their own attitudes to mental health related illnesses.
“Organisations should take note of forward thinking attitudes and put in place their own policies and training to support suffering employees, as well as raise mental health awareness. Ultimately, mental health needs to be brought out of the shadows and into the spotlight of the boardroom, so that executives can ensure their employees have access to the resources and support they need.”
NHS mental health nurse, psychotherapist and podcaster Aimee Leigh has over 17 years’ experience in the field. She also practices mindfulness techniques designed to manage stress and anxiety. Aimee suggests:
“To combat stress, one must learn to be present and grounded in their bodies, through the use of the senses. Developing a practice of mindfulness helps the mind become resilient. Managing stress by training the mind to focus on one point for sustained periods of time stops the mind fluctuating, racing and catastrophising. When a person isn’t caught up in their thoughts, they’re more able to be focused and productive. They’re also less emotionally reactive and more proactive, productive and efficient.
“Higher priorities need to be placed on supporting staff emotionally in the workplace, with more education for staff around taking responsibility for their health and well-being.”
The review says employers should:
- Create a mental health at work plan
- Build mental health awareness by making information and support accessible
- Encourage open conversations
- Provide good working conditions and ensure employees have a healthy work-life balance
- Promote effective people management, with line managers holding regular conversations about health and well-being with their staff
- Routinely monitor employee mental health