50% of workers with mental health problems are ‘too embarrassed’ to tell their employer

50% of workers with mental health problems are ‘too embarrassed’ to tell their employer

The UK ranks fifth from bottom in the developed world when it comes to ‘unmanageable’ workplace stress, yet only 50% of those suffering from mental health problems feel able to talk about it with their employer, Personnel Today has reported.

So what is it that’s making us so stressed? What is being done to tackle the problem? And what can employers and employees do to combat workplace stress, as well as anxiety and depression that can result from long-term stress?

We are UK workers so stressed?

Stress is a serious issue. We all experience stress in our lives, but when we stay stressed for an extended period of time, it can lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

The biggest cause of work-related stress, anxiety and depression for UK workers is workload. A 2017 survey by Specialists4Protection found that workload is in fact on the rise. Workers are being asked to do more in their current role, with financial pressures cited as a key factor.

But job fears could also be responsible for people taking on more work than they can manage. The prospect of an economic downturn post-Brexit has resulted in 70% of employers reporting job security fears among their staff. So employees are working longer hours, working while sick (presenteeism) and working while on annual leave (leaveism).

Silence around mental health

According to Personnel Today, 50% of workers with mental health difficulties are ‘too embarrassed’ to talk about it with their employer. While progress has been made in recent years, thanks to the work of organisations such as Time to Change and Heads Together, it’s clear stigma does still exist. A 2017 poll by time to change found that just 13% of UK workers would ‘feel comfortable’ talking about their mental health at work (see more stats in our blog post The UK mental health crisis in eight statistics).

This problem does not only affect employees. It also affects the self-employed and business owners. A Forbes article recently highlighted this issue. They referenced a study by Dr Michael Freeman, which found that 49% of entrepreneurs surveyed had experienced a mental health problem, compared to 32% in the control group.

Forbes spoke to tech entrepreneur Rachel Renock, who said: “There’s this whole mechanism that teaches people that things are an overnight success. Like Snapchat was an overnight success. Like Facebook was an overnight success. And nobody wants to talk too much about the challenges because you don’t want to scare off potential investors, or potential employees, and so on and so forth. So there ends up being this culture of silence.”

Mental health support lacking

Just one in 10 people in the UK said their workplace had a wellbeing programme which they had used. In this respect the UK fares badly – the global figure is one in five. Employers are missing a trick here, as 44% of respondents said an employer’s wellbeing package would attract them to a job. In a survey by Barnett Waddinghan, 79% of HR managers see mental health as a priority, but only 47% felt they effectively dealt with the prejudices around mental health.

No employee should feel ’embarrased’ talking about their mental health. Work needs to be done to educate everyone from employees to senior managers on the issues. Building a culture in which everyone feels safe and accepted should not be a ‘nice to have’, it must be ingrained in every organisation’s culture.

My Possible Self is a digital mental health toolkit that uses content proven to reduce stress, anxiety and mild-to-moderate depression in eight weeks. We’re available to individuals, and to employers who want to offer their employees a secure, convenient, evidence-backed source of help for day-to-day mental health challenges. Download the app or get in touch to find out how we can help your business.

Sam Weston

I am a social media manager, content writer and audio enthusiast - I set a world record once upon a time!