Staff still can't discuss mental health

A survey suggests employers are less than supportive of those with mental health problems. Merry Christmas to all?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 10 Sep 2013
Christmas: it’s supposed to be full of festive cheer but the reality is that with the stresses and strains it brings with it, for many, it can be a daunting time of year. Hence, presumably, a warning by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, along with mental health charity Mind, which point out that while a quarter of employees have experienced mental health problems while they’ve been in employment, just one in five workers say they’d feel comfortable disclosing it to their employers. Which doesn’t exactly fill us with a warm glow…

What’s encouraging is that the old stiff upper lip, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ attitudes of yore seem to be disappearing: 37% of the 2,000 people surveyed said their employer supports those with mental health problems ‘well’, although just a quarter said their organisation actively encourages its staff to discuss what they’re going through.

It’s a little worrying, though, that while 41% of those surveyed said their mental health is ‘good’ and 33% say it’s ‘very good’, a sizeable proportion of the working population – 25% – say their mental health is either ‘moderate’ or ‘poor’. And interestingly, there’s a disparity between the genders: while just under a third of women in employment say they’ve got mental health problems, fewer than a quarter of men do.

The good news is that most of those who are having a tough time don’t blame work. Well, not entirely: while 15% say their mental health problems are entirely because of work, two-thirds say it’s because of a combination of both work and their personal lives and 20% say it’s nothing to do with work at all.

One thing that is hardly surprising, though, is the big differences between the sectors. Where the prospect of redundancy remains high – ie. in the public sector – the percentage of those who say they have experienced mental health problems is 37%, compared with the 23% of those who work in the private sector. The bad news on that front is that, if the economy begins to head south in the new year and unemployment shoots up, those figures will begin to change. So as you tuck into your turkey this year, spare a thought for those feeling the strain.

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