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Can employees safely confide in managers about mental illness?

View profile for Sally Morris
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A new report has looked into the stark impact that stress and mental health has on workers following research that absence is costing the economy some £26 billion per annum.

The findings explore workers’ reluctance to discuss these important issues with management and employers’ averseness to implementing mental health training.

The report, published on behalf of the Mental Health Foundation in partnership with Mental Health First Aid England, found that just 14 per cent of workers (around one in six) feel comfortable speaking to their manager about their stress levels.

Furthermore, a quarter of millennials (one in four) and 18 per cent of baby boomers (around one in five) believe they compromise their health to do their job.

The question was asked about who’s responsible for employee mental wellbeing. Interesting, the vast majority (84 per cent) of managers acknowledged that keeping mental health in check was part of their role, but just a quarter (one in four) said they had received training.

Jaan Madan, workplace lead at Mental Health First Aid England, said: “In recent years, huge steps have been taken to improve mental health awareness across society, including in the workplace.

“However, today’s research shows that more needs to be done to translate this awareness into action… Coping with stress in the workplace starts with being able to have a conversation with your manager, and in a mentally healthy organisation everyone should feel comfortable talking about stress.”

A similar study, published by the Institute of Directors (IoD) last week, found similar results.

Its research suggests that around four in 10 directors have been approached by staff concerned about mental health – up by around 25 per cent compared to the year previous.

But just one in five business leaders said they were able to offer mental health training for management.

Stephen Martin, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said: “While mental health is no longer the taboo subject it was, much work remains to be done. Directors must take to heart the importance of their workforce’s mental health, just as they would their physical health.

“The bottom line is this: the workplace shouldn’t be somewhere that people feel they have to hide the problems they are facing. In fact, it should be one of the places where help is most easily found.”

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