Workers uncomfortable talking about mental health

A new survey from Babylon Health claims that nearly 80 percent of UK adults would be uncomfortable discussing their mental health with their employer. Workplace pressures were listed as the second-largest cause of anxiety among the 2000 participants, behind personal relationships. 45 percent of adults said they felt stressed by issues at work. This follows a recent speech by Theresa May, one of her last as Prime Minister, in which she called on schools, universities and the NHS to improve prevention of mental ill health problems.

However, the workplace is still very much a grey area for many people. An independent review in 2017 estimated that 300,000 with long-term conditions leave their jobs every year.

A more open relationship between employers and their staff is clearly needed. Babylon’s survey found that more than two-thirds believe that mental health is not openly discussed by their employers, and more than half believe their conditions are stigmatised in the workplace.

Dr Claudia Pastides, a London-based GP with Babylon suggests two main areas where employers can improve their support for staff:

Developing awareness

Dr Claudia says “One way of developing awareness in the workplace is by improving the ‘mental health literacy’ of every person in the workplace. Mental health literacy means having knowledge and beliefs about problems.

This knowledge helps the individual to recognise, manage or prevent problems.

Not knowing how to recognise problems means not knowing when to seek or to offer help. Therefore, a good starting point for workplaces is to improve health literacy.

This will not only help the employee to recognise their symptoms, but it will also make colleagues and managers aware of the signs to look out for in those around them. We know that early recognition and intervention is best when it comes to mental health.”

Ways to improve literacy include:

  • Hold awareness days/week
  • Training for employees on awareness and wellbeing
  • Training for managers on workplace wellbeing
  • Setting up champions in the workplace

Encouraging conversations

Dr Claudia says “Reducing the stigma around mental ill health is important, as is early identification and access to support. Ways to address this include:

  • Training up Mental Health First Aiders in the workplace. They are trained to recognise the early signs of problems, and also know where to signpost people to for more support.
  • Offering access to an advice line or psychotherapy services to all employees
  • Offering access to medical services or establishing links with local services