Opinion  

57% of UK employees have experienced a mental health problem

Canada Life

Over half (57%) of UK employees have suffered from mental health problems while in employment, according to new research from Canada Life Group Insurance.

This is a telling sign of the prevalence of mental health issues, with stress (43%) and depression (26%) the most commonly experienced problems.

Figures from Canada Life Group Insurance in the first quarter of 2015 highlighted depression as the fastest-growing reason why people use the employee counselling helpline included with their group income protection product.

Of those who experienced mental health issues, half (51%) have taken time off from work as a result. 14% took longer than a month off, including 5% who were off for more than 6 months.

In addition, three in five (60%) said their mental health issues have negatively affected their performance at work. Failure to tackle mental health problems in the workplace not only affects employee wellbeing, but also impacts productivity.

The findings also reveal that working environments can have a negative impact on mental health.

One in five (19%) of all employees say their workplace has had a negative impact on their mental health, with the most common causes being high pressure and excessive workloads (both 25%).

Workplace bullying or unpleasant behaviour from a boss is also cited by 15% as a cause of mental health worries.

• Depression and stress are the most common mental health issues among UK workforce;

• 1 in 4 blame high pressure and excessive workloads for negative workplace impact on mental health;

• 20% of sufferers too embarrassed to take time off for mental illness;

• Stigma still exists as one in six non-sufferers believe treating stress like a physical illness is an “over-reaction”.

Mental health sufferers too embarrassed to ask for time off work

Those suffering with mental health issues often feel too embarrassed to ask for time off, or even choose not to tell their employer. 44% of those experiencing mental health issues have wanted to take time off but felt unable to do so.

One in five (20%) chose not to not ask for time off due to feeling embarrassed, while 9% were afraid that their employer would treat them differently as a result. 11% were too scared to ask their employer.

Over half (53%) have not made their employer aware of their mental health problems, with privacy (49%), worrying their employer might think they can’t do their job properly (17%) and embarrassment (11%) being the three key factors behind this.

One in five (18%) were also too embarrassed to tell colleagues, highlighting the stigma that remains around mental illness.

This is particularly relevant to the findings of the High Court in Easton v B&Q, as employers have a duty of care to their employees but need to be made aware of their suffering before they act if it is not otherwise foreseeable.

Furthermore, two-thirds (67%) of respondents who discussed a mental health problem with their employer felt the interaction was positive, with two-fifths (39%) also being offered support.

Stigma of non-physical illness present among UK workforce