Mind the mental health gap: Employees are THREE times more likely to discuss physical ailments over mental health issues at work
The disparity in physical and mental health at work is laid bare in new research from the ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ campaign, as it launches its new Workplace Manifesto1 ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May 2019). A OnePoll survey of 2,000 employed adults reveals that, on average, 42% of employees feel comfortable discussing prevalent physical conditions, compared to just 14% who feel they can talk about common mental health issues.
Commissioned by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England and Bauer Media UK for the ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ campaign, the research also shows that:
- Only around 1 in 10 workers would feel comfortable speaking about self-harm, psychosis, eating disorders, postnatal depression or schizophrenia
- Almost 40% of employees would be ok talking to their manager about cancer compared to just 12% who feel they could discuss bipolar disorder
- We would rather talk about diarrhoea [29%] than depression [26%] with our manager
The research shows the persisting mental health gap in the workplace, with first aid skills a clear indicator of this. Over 7 in 10 employees know basic physical first aid, such as how to bandage a finger or treat a minor burn. But just over a third [36%] feel confident talking to colleagues about common mental health struggles with stress and depression in the workplace – a basic part of Mental Health First Aid training.
The findings illustrate that there must be a fundamental change to ensure we treat mental and physical health equally in the workplace. In response to this, and to mark the ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ campaign’s first birthday, its new Workplace Manifesto is setting out a bold call for leaders to strive for an understanding and commitment to workplace wellbeing.
From today, employers up and down the country will be encouraged to sign up as official supporters of the Manifesto and commit to recognising the need to prioritise mental health, build diverse and inclusive workplaces, treat mental and physical health equally and turn mental health awareness into positive action.
Commenting on the findings, Simon Blake OBE, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England said: “Despite the increased awareness around mental health in the workplace, employees are telling us that there is still a significant gap in how we think and act about physical and mental health at work.
“To address this gap, employers are being encouraged to translate awareness into action and stamp out the stigma of mental ill health in the workplace. The manifesto we are launching today gives employers the opportunity to show their commitment to protecting and supporting their people’s mental health.
“This manifesto is a mission statement for a healthier working world, where people’s mental health is supported and protected and where wellbeing is at the heart of all we do. By signing this manifesto organisations from all sectors, and of all sizes, will join us in striving towards healthier working environments for everyone.”
Paul Keenan, President of Audio Bauer Media Group commented: “Our manifesto is a call for change: a call for fellow employers and MPs to join us in striving to do more for mental health care in the workplace for the benefit of our people and our businesses. The ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ campaign is putting a spotlight on mental health in the workplace and we hope this movement will deliver true cultural impact and create a seismic change in society.”
Karl Simons, Chief Health, Safety and Security Officer at Thames Water, and a signatory of the Workplace Manifesto, said: “Our mental health first aiders are a catalyst for engagement and have inspired a cultural revolution at Thames Water. Confidence has grown throughout the company with people now much more willing to come forward, talk and seek support at their time of need, with records showing we’ve had five mental health first aid interventions for every physical one over the last year.”
Natasha Devon MBE, campaigner and author said: “Whilst many employers are claiming to take mental health more seriously, the feedback I’m getting on my travels around the UK is that many of them are paying it lip service. Our research shows that people still feel the stigma of discussing mental health in the workplace, fearing they will be seen as ‘unprofessional’ if they do disclose a mental health issue. That’s why, one year on from when we called for a law change to make mental health first aid mandatory in the workplace, we have expanded the range of recommended actions employers can take. We spend a third of our lives at work and we can’t leave our mental health at the door – it’s essential businesses get this right”.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England, Bauer Media UK and Natasha Devon MBE are calling on employers, business leaders and MPs from across the country to sign up to support the ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ Workplace Manifesto. The goal is to sign-up 50 leading employers by the end of Mental Health Awareness Week. Visit: http://www.wheresyourheadat.org/