Do you need to be more astute when identifying mental health?

Written by
Mike Blake

18 May 2016

18 May 2016 • by Mike Blake

Keeping issues bottled up

Only 35% of UK workers who have suffered from mental health problems have talked to their manager about these issues, new research has revealed.

The study of 1,388 workers commissioned by Willis PMI Group, part of Willis Towers Watson, found that silence was particularly prevalent among younger employees. Only 26% of 16 to 24-year-olds say they talked to their manager, compared to 38% of 45 to 64-year-olds.

The biggest reason why workers suffering with mental health issues do not talk to management is the fear it will impact upon job prospects. This was cited by 33% of respondents, followed by the worry they would not receive adequate support (30%), concern their manager would not understand (28%) and the fear it might make management think less of them (23%).

Mental illness remains an incredibly delicate subject and one that requires urgent attention from employers in order to better manage staff wellbeing and sickness absence.

It is unlikely we would ever see a case with physical illness where most people are unwilling to report it to management, so companies must ensure employees with mental health issues do not suffer in silence. The proper recording of sickness and absence related to mental health is a crucial first step in tackling the problem, but this can only happen if staff are given the assurance they can report issues in confidentiality and without judgement.

Does it differ through the generations?

The Willis PMI Group study further revealed that 30 per cent of UK workers believe mental illness is a private issue that should be dealt with by the individual. Once more, older generations appear more open, with only 26 per cent of 45 to 64-year-olds holding this belief, compared to 32 per cent of 16 to 44-year-olds.

Workers were also found to be more open about mental health issues outside of work. Eighty-two per cent of those surveyed said they would talk to their family and friends if they were suffering from mental health issues.