Mental Health Stigma In The Workplace

According to a recent study by Bupa, ‘Breaking the Silence’, it has been revealed that 94 per cent of UK leaders admit prejudice against staff who sufferer with mental health conditions. Bupa surveyed 50 business leaders and 500 employees, both with and without mental health conditions.

The research found that a third of business leaders think that employees with mental health illnesses will fail to return to full productivity. In responses to the study, some leaders said they ‘labelled’ these members of staff as unpredictable, weak and erratic. Research by OECD indicated that people with mental disorder where more likely to be unemployed, which suggests that people with mental illnesses experience greater difficulty in finding jobs even when wishing to work. In contrast, 53% of employees managing mental health problems felt they were still top performers.

While, 88% claim they are trying to encourage an open culture of discussion around mental health and yet as many as 70% of employees don’t feel they can speak candidly about such issues or concerns. Also, 47% report treading on eggshells around around employees who have experienced a mental health condition and 22% avoid talking to them altogether. Therefore, this study has shown a huge disconnect between what leaders think they are doing t support good mental health, and what employees say they are actually experiencing.

Patrick Watt, corporate director at Bupa explained: “Despite business leaders recognising the importance of addressing mental health at work there is still a long way to go to break down the wall of silence and create genuine change.”

Businesses must take immediate action. Managers need to be trained to spot the signs and know how to support employees to get the right help.

Furthermore, research also revealed that worrying prejudices are negatively impacting employees’ progress at work. 20% that have suffered with mental health issues have been put under pressure to resign, 51% believe they are less likely to get promoted.

Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing, at Mind, said: “This latest research from Bupa echoes our own findings – that mental health is still a taboo in the workplace. It’s good that organisations are increasingly acknowledging the importance of prioritising the wellbeing of their staff, with those who make mental health a priority seeing the benefits in terms of increased staff productivity and morale; and decreased sickness absence.

“But clearly senior business leaders still hold some outdated and damaging views about the impact a mental health problem can have on somebody’s ability to carry out their role. We all have mental health and people with mental health problems can perform to a high standard and make a valuable contribution to the business”

The survey has shown that there is a clear misunderstanding within the workplace regarding mental health. Highlighting that major steps need to be put in place to rid this stigmatisation in the workplace. It is no longer acceptable to be silent about mental health each individual needs to be understood.

Patrick Watt added: “Great talent is being lost and demotivated due to a lack of understanding about mental health. Yet, it is perfectly possible for employees to return to work after a mental illness, and not only perform, but excel in their roles.

“Business leaders must be the champions of change: tackling the stigma around mental health, eliminating practices or cultural habits that cause stress, and encouraging people to speak up and to seek help without fear or consequence. Turning a blind eye will only push issues further underground.”

Bupa joined companies including BT Group, American Express, Procter & Gamble, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and more with BITC to launch a national campaign to increase awareness of mental health issues called ‘Time To Change’.

Mike Sandiford
Head of Partnerships
0207 193 9931

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