Do People With Mental Illness Need More Support at Work?

Mental illness

Just 5.7 per cent of people in England who suffer from a severe mental illness are in employment, according to statistics. However, it has been proven time and again that work is conducive to good mental health, with aspects such as company and a feeling of purposefulness essential for wellbeing.

However, in some areas in the UK, less than one per cent of people who are currently in contact with secondary mental health services is working, with the national average across England a poor 5.7 per cent.

Severe mental health issues may sound like a small number of people, so not worth your worry as a company, but consider the fact that one in every 100 people across the nation will be diagnosed with Schizophrenia. This is not a problem you are extremely unlikely to face as an employer.

Rethink is one charity currently looking at tackling stigma, matching patients with jobs they can do, and persuading employers to look at people with mental illness.

Mental health and employment

Across the board, the consensus is that more needs to be done to help people with mental health problems stay in work. Recent surveys show that 75 per cent of people with mental health issues got no treatment at all, yet around 70 million working days were lost due to mental illness. This cost the economy somewhere in the region of £70 to £100 billion. The question has to be asked; couldn’t we be doing more to support these people, who are in fact vital members of the workforce?

Sixty to seventy per cent of those suffering from common mental illnesses are in work – but lack of effective treatment can increase the level of sickness absence and reduce productivity levels. Some of the issue still lies in the stigma of mental illness. According to a Friends Life Survey last year, nearly half of employees had experienced mental health issues but chose not to tell their employer for fear of how it would impact their career prospects.

The statistics show that addressing employee mental health and the stigma associated with this should be something businesses are thinking about. By paying greater attention to the mental wellbeing of their workforce, employers can unleash the benefits of a healthier, happy, more productive workforce.

If you’re looking at ways to improve the overall mental health of your workforce, occupational health management is the logical first step. Speak to the team at OHBM to find out how we can help your organisation address mental health issues.

Employees Worry About Declaring Mental Health Problems At Work

Nearly half of employees experience mental health conditions but choose not to tell their employer according to a Friends Life survey.

Two thousand participants from across a variety of industries were surveyed, with 40% stating that they had experienced conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression. However they chose not to disclose the information due to concerns that it might impact upon their career prospects.

An “excessive workload” was the most common cause of stress, followed by “frustration with poor management and working hours” and notably, it was younger workers who are feeling the strain more than the older generation. Nearly two thirds of 18 to 24-year-olds said that they had been stressed, anxious or depressed within the last year, with the rate of incident decreasing gradually among older age groups.

Employees worrying about the impact of telling an employer about their mental health is understandable but it is important to know that a person may have legal protection if they are suffering mental health conditions at their workplace.

Under the Equality Act 2010 a mental illness can be classified as a disability if a person has a physical or mental impairment, and if the impairment has a substantial and long-term effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Conditions are deemed to be long term if they last for 12 months or longer.

In the event of a disability, employers are required to take reasonable action in order to support their work force. For example, changing shift patterns, working hours or adjusting other factors such as long distance travelling and computer usage can be implemented in order to support employees experiencing problems. If an employer is unreasonable or dismisses a person on the grounds of disability, then they could leave themselves open to a disability discrimination claim or unfair dismissal.

It is important that workers tell their employer if they are experiencing a mental health problem, as it will enable the opportunity for support and adjustments to be provided. In the long run this will increase productivity and lead to a happier, healthier workforce.