As many as seventy-seven per cent of UK employees have experienced a mental health issue at some point.
However, it seems that the problems compound. Those experiencing mental health problems tend to be burdened by worries and concerns in three key areas (in addition to the root cause of their problem): work & finances, personal problems and finding their way around the NHS for the right treatment, making it harder for employers to offer support.
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc explains:
“Speak to someone with mental health problems and you’ll quickly understand that one problem runs in to another and another, and the accompanying concerns can quickly outweigh the reason for the initial diagnosis.”
In supporting patients with mental health issues, RedArc found three main concerns:
- Debt: unable to afford to stay off work sick
- How can I go back to work and face everyone?
- Pressure from self/employer/colleagues, however unintentional, to get back to work as soon as possible
- On return to work, lack of proper phased return, expectation to ‘hit the floor running’
- Fatigue: return to work can be very tiring, especially if not managed well by the employer
- Shame/stigma of mental health problems
- Loss of confidence
- Withdrawal from social life and hobbies
- Withdrawal from family and other relationships
- Feeling of lack of control: especially of emotions
- Pressure from self: ‘I should be able to…’ expectation to be back to their normal self quickly, not allowing time to properly recover
- Fear of failure: for example, not being able to do their job properly when they return to work
- Navigating the NHS: knowing where to start, which departments to contact, what services are available
- Not receiving or being signposted to appropriate treatment
- Long waiting times
- Lack of funding for appropriate support
- Lack of understanding from GP
Support from employers
Few employers are now of the opinion that their employees’ mental wellbeing is ‘none of their business’ and most recognise they have a responsibility in supporting the mental wellbeing of staff, but many are still in the wilderness about how to provide this support.
So how can employers help?
Christine Husbands believes that more employers need to look to what is available via their EAP. Often useful benefits, such as telephone support and/or counselling for employees, sit there as an unused ‘extra’ within the policy that the company hasn’t fully explored – it’s often simply a case of looking. If it’s not there already, it isn’t normally costly to add on, and the benefits for both employer and employee can be phenomenal:
“Large employers can tap into mental health specialists, perhaps via comprehensive group insurances such as PMI and group risk but this isn’t necessarily out of reach for smaller employers, where such specialist support is not uncommon as part of employee benefits such as group critical illness and employee assistance programmes.
“Selecting a partner to provide support either directly or via an insurance product, can be a great help for the employer, enabling them to offer effective independent confidential support – helping reduce absenteeism, increase productivity as well as creating resilient staff and a positive working environment.”