76% feel it would be uncomfortable to talk about mental health at work

New white paper shows employees are reluctant to come forward about mental health issues.



Over three quarters of professionals believe people at their place of work would be uncomfortable discussing mental health, according to a survey for ‘Blue Monday’ – commonly cited as the most ‘depressing’ day of the year where people feel at their ‘lowest.’

The survey for a white paper by recruitment consultancy Robert Walters shows 76% of approximately 3,000 professionals polled say they would not feel relaxed talking about mental health at work. They cite anxiety of how they might be perceived by co-workers (82%), concerns over harm to career prospects (78%), embarrassment (76%), and fears they would not be trusted with more responsibility (69%) as the key barriers.

Less than a quarter (23%) ‘strongly agree’ that attitudes towards mental health in the workplace have changed in recent years.

Almost 80% of employees claim that management simply ‘making clear that mental health is a priority’ would be a highly effective strategy in removing the barrier to talk. However only a third (36%) of management feel that this approach would be necessary or effective.

According to the research, only half of UK employers have a mental health policy in place, despite the fact that 97% of professionals believe their employer has a responsibility to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff.

Chris Hickey, UK CEO at recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, states: “In our own industry we have seen a shift in professionals (88%) wanting to know more about a prospective employers approach towards mental health and wellbeing. However many employees (64%) are finding this information difficult to come by, not helped by the fact that just 3% of companies mention their mental wellbeing strategies in job adverts.

“As a result, more and more professionals (42%) are resorting to using employer review sites to find out about an organisations mental health policy.”

Robert Walters says only 17% of employers currently have a partnership in place with an external (mental health or wellbeing) organisation, despite most companies (89%) recognising the benefits it would bring. Added to this, only 18% of general staff – outside of HR – receive mental health training.

Hickey adds: “Just 6% of hiring managers specifically recruit staff with expertise in mental health, and of these less then 10% feel that their skills are being used as effectively as possible.

“In addition to reviewing the recruitment process in order to seek professionals with specific skills and experience of dealing with mental health barriers in the workplace, employers should review their current workforce to identify staff who already possess expertise in the field and help to train them up.”

Workingmums.co.uk works with a number of employers who are actively promoting mental well being, including WH Smith which trains staff to be mental health first aiders and has joined other employers in calling for the Government to put mental health on an equal footing with first aid in the workplace.

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