Wellbeing and Mental Health

There is still a major stigma attached to mental illness

A worker at a Ford assembly plant reacts after an emergency meeting with the plant management in Genk October 24, 2012. Ford Motor Co announced to unions on Wednesday that it will close the factory employing 4,300 workers in the Belgian town of Genk, as it tries to stem losses in Europe and match capacity to tumbling demand.      REUTERS/Laurent Dubrule                  (BELGIUM - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - GM1E8AO1BR901

A study found that 85% of UK workers thought that there was still a stigma attached to mental health issues in the workplace. Image: REUTERS/Laurent Dubrule

Lindsay Dodgson
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In July, the story of how a CEO responded when his employee took a "meantal health day off" sparked optimism around how the topic of mental health is now approached in the workplace.

However, a new survey suggests that most people don't think their colleagues would react well to any mention of mental disorders.

A study by CIPD course providers, DPG Plc, found that 85% of UK workers thought that there was still a stigma attached to mental health issues and stress in the workplace — even though one in four people are affected by a mental illness, according to the NHS.

The survey was conducted among 1,000 employed adults in the UK, more than a quarter (26%) of whom had taken a day off work due to stress or another mental health problem, and lied about the reason.

58% said they wouldn't be comfortable telling their manager if they were diagnosed with a mental health issue, and just 20% thought their manager was fully equipped to support workers with such issues.

The study also showed that women were more likely to tell their boss they had a different illness if they took a day off for their mental health.

Clearly, people still feel that they won't be taken as seriously as they would be if they were suffering from something outwardly physical.

"These findings highlight a need for change in the workplace, and an increase in how visible support in the workplace is," said Paul Drew, the managing director at DPG. "The problem is that, whilst the support networks may well exist, it seems they’re being drastically underused because people fear looking ineffective, weak, or compromised."

According to Tom Oxley, the lead consultant and relationship director at Bamboo Mental Health, mental health stigma is still alive and well, and this can be due to the attitudes of individuals, or entire companies.

"Make no mistake; subject knowledge has improved but there’s a chasm between awareness and action for many employers," he said in a statement. "Six out of ten [of those currently suffering] aren’t saying anything to their manager. That means they’re working unwell and not getting support. That means the team performance may be impaired."

One respondent of the survey said in their experience there is a "grow up and get over it" attitude about mental health, and managers should all receive training about the appropriate and helpful way to react. It all comes down to building trust between themselves and their staff.

"[They should] encourage a culture where it is ok to talk," another respondent said. "Get the buy in from senior managers and raise mental health awareness by rolling out training programmes."

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