Only 35 per cent of UK workers who have suffered from mental health problems have talked to their manager about these issues, new research has revealed.
The study of 1,388 workers commissioned by Willis PMI Group, part of Willis Towers Watson, found that silence was particularly prevalent among younger employees. Only 26 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds say they talked to their manager, compared to 38 per cent of 45 to 64-year-olds.
The biggest reason why workers suffering with mental health issues do not talk to management is the fear it will impact upon job prospects. This was cited by 33 per cent of respondents, followed by the worry they would not receive adequate support (30 per cent), concern their manager would not understand (28 per cent) and the fear it might make management think less of them (23 per cent).
“Mental illness remains an incredibly delicate subject and one that requires urgent attention from employers in order to better manage staff wellbeing and sickness absence,” said Mike Blake, Director at Willis PMI Group.
“It is unlikely we would ever see a case with physical illness where most people are unwilling to report it to management, so companies must ensure employees with mental health issues do not suffer in silence. The proper recording of sickness and absence related to mental health is a crucial first step in tackling the problem, but this can only happen if staff are given the assurance they can report issues in confidentiality and without judgement.”
The Willis PMI Group study further revealed that 30 per cent of UK workers believe mental illness is a private issue that should be dealt with by the individual. Once more, older generations appear more open, with only 26 per cent of 45 to 64-year-olds holding this belief, compared to 32 per cent of 16 to 44-year-olds.
Workers were also found to be more open about mental health issues outside of work. Eighty-two per cent of those surveyed said they would talk to their family and friends if they were suffering from mental health issues.
Absence Management Expert Adrian Lewis, commenting on the findings, said:
“Findings like these illustrate that despite being one of the biggest reasons behind sickness absence in the UK, there is still a huge stigma attached to mental health issues at work.
In our experience, as well as improved absence recording systems, a proper return to work process with a gentle, non judgemental return to work interview helps employees open up about mental health issues and enables employers to support their staff early on. Improved support for staff with mental health issues would have a massive impact on the UK’s sickness bill, and would reduce the very real human impact too.”