55% of UK workers cannot access, or are unaware of mental health support at work
A poll with a cross section of workers from across the UK, has found that more than half have no access to mental health support at work, or don’t know if their business has policies to support workers with mental illness.
The survey, carried out by HSE Network, quizzed 1,513 UK employees from various sectors and job roles, with the question: Does your workplace have policies for helping staff with mental health? Respondents replied:
- Yes 44.30%;
- No 21.41%;
- Don’t Know 34.29%.
Mental health has begun to be taken more seriously by businesses in recent years, with one in six workers suffering from a mental health condition and improved awareness highlighting the serious implications on staff, and also directly impact on business, but this new evidence shows than many businesses are still not taking it seriously or putting in place procedures for support around mental health issues.
With 14.3 million working days lost per year in the UK due to stress, depression and anxiety the cost to employers is around £45 billion each year which is a rise of 16% since 2016, to the cost of an extra £6 billion a year. It has been found that every pound spent by employers on mental health interventions leads to a return of £5 in reduced absence, presenteeism and staff turnover.
Paul Clark, Co-Founder of The HSE Network, sees the problem as a misunderstanding at a fundamental level. He said: “People who don’t suffer with a mental health problem themselves, don’t always recognise or address it.
“There is real misunderstanding with mental health. If you have someone with an addiction problem with drink for example, they can’t just put a drink down. It’s an illness. We don’t have the people in positions of power, from the government level and in certain businesses, who share the right understanding of mental health and mental illness.”
Paul has personal insight into the impact of mental illness, as someone who has nearly died as a result of alcohol and drug abuse.
“I had a rock bottom, a near death experience as a result of my addictions, which made me wake up to the reality. Mental health policies should be about building a support network where people can meet other people that suffer because they understand what they are going through. The managers who choose to ignore mental illness in their workforce, in my opinion they shouldn’t be in a position of leadership,” he added.
As well as running two health & safety related businesses, Paul Clark also runs a support group in Bath, called The Onion, which brings people together with mental health challenges and has a Facebook community with more than 2,000 followers.
“Mental health is the area that has the most prevalent number of incidents reported and in a workforce of 50-100 people you will definitely have members of your team who would benefit from support. As a leader you need to get under the bonnet of what mental illness and what mental health is. You need to attend seminars and meetings and you need to get into it to understand it because how can you help somebody recover if you don’t give them the right support or understand it yourself?”
Furthermore, there is an urgency to address mental health policies in businesses with the added pressures of working during the Covid-19 pandemic. Mental health problems are triggered or compounded by remoteness and uncertainty. Due to this, mental health impacts in employment are expected to rise.
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