38% of Brits fear revealing a mental health problem at work would jeopardise their career

10 October 2017

A new survey of 2,000 workers which was commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation for World Mental Health Day (Tuesday 10th October) has revealed that 38% of British workers wouldn’t talk openly about a mental health problem for fear it would affect their job prospects or job security.

  • A further 17 % said they were worried they would face negative judgement from colleagues. 
  • 45% said they would be likely to make up an excuse such as stomach ache or back problems for absence if they needed to take time off work for mental health reasons.
  • Worryingly, one in five workers (20%) said they have seen the label of mental health misused against co-workers.
  • 11% have been victims of abuse at work as a direct result of a mental health issue. 

The survey also polled 1,000 managers and found that almost a quarter said there is no established protocol or procedure to follow if staff have concerns about their mental health.  

  • 59% said their workplace could make improvements to current systems and attitudes to take the mental health of workers more seriously.
  • 65% of managers felt that taking time off due to physical illness or injury is treated more seriously than taking time off to improve mental health.

 In response to the findings, the Mental Health Foundation has published a guide for employers, including "a check-list", on how to transform our workplaces into mentally friendly environments. 

Jenny Edwards CBE, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said: 

"Despite growing awareness, there are sadly still too many people who don’t feel safe talking about their mental health at work. 

"We are asking people to talk about mental health, but this must be matched with an ability to listen compassionately and act appropriately.

"We still hear examples of mental ill-health being used as a form of casual insult. This creates a culture where people don’t feel able to talk about their mental health at work or reach out for support when they need it."

Chris O Sullivan, Head of Business Development at the Charity said: 

"We're looking to employers to step up and take action to protect and improve the mental health of their staff. That starts with ensuring the culture and working practices enable people to thrive. It could include offering programmes to help staff improve their wellbeing, and services that enable people to reach out for help when they need it. 

"Healthy workplaces recognise the contribution of employees living with mental health problems, and support open disclosure. A culture that must be lead from the very top, and driven forward through line management and engagement of staff at all levels."

The Mental Health Foundation's checklist for employers includes: 

  • training opportunities for line managers on how to support staff with mental health problems as well as stress management across the board
  • reasonable adjustments to a person's work pattern to remove barriers and allow them to stay in work
  • mental health embedded in company policies which recognise the mental health needs and wellbeing of staff
  • senior leaders responsible for leading mental health activities, such as mental health awareness sessions, with all managers engaged in the activity
  • regular staff surveys to build data about staff mental health, using findings to plan and deliver action and inform workplace policies
  • encourage staff to report discrimination or harassment they face and to blow the whistle on discrimination they witness
  • endorse national and local anti-stigma initiatives like See Me.