Shining a light on mental health awareness

 

Give that it’s Mental Health Awareness week, it’s not surprising that there’s been a few associated pieces that have come to our attention. It feels, more than ever before, that mental health is getting much needed press coverage. Yet despite the worthy attempts by many to make the topic of mental health issues more open, accessible and actionable, how do people really feel in the workplace about it?

Thanks to a survey released by the Mental Health Foundation, in partnership with Mental Health First Aid England (and conducted by YouGov), they’ve surveyed 4,619 people to produce the UK’s biggest ever stress survey and come up with some interesting insights. The biggest of which is that there is a generational divide between employees’ feelings around workplace stress.

In short, it’s the millennials who feel most under pressure in the workplace. 28% said that they felt the ability to power through stress, was something their organisation expected. Just 12% of baby boomers felt like that. What’s more 27% of millennials often feel bothered by their stress levels during the working week as opposed to just 17% of baby boomers. 

And whilst much has been done about making mental health less of a taboo subject in the workplace, on average – across both generation – there are still only 14% of people who are comfortable speaking to a manager about their stress levels. And this is despite 25% of millennials saying they compromise their health to do their job, compared with 18% of baby boomers.

It’s also having an impact on productivity it seems. Some 34% of millennials claim to be less productive at work due to stress, in comparison to 19% of baby boomers.

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 commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation shows that more needs to be done to translate this awareness into action, with only 14% of both millennials and baby boomers feeling comfortable speaking to their managers about stress.

“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. Which is why Mental Health First Aid England has launched the Address Your Stress Toolkit, a free practical resource to help employers and employees identify the sources and signs of stress and take steps to help reduce the impact.”  

Richard Grange, a spokesperson for the Mental Health Foundation, added: “The mental health impact of work can follow us home. A good job where we feel secure and supported can boost our mental health. But poor and insecure working conditions undermine good mental health.

“Millennials are more likely to have insecure contracts, low rates of pay and high entry-level workloads. The pressures they face in today’s employment market are very different to past generations.

“A degree, for example, was once considered the key to success. But that is no longer always the case. The more we understand about how experiences of work have changed – the less surprising it is they are experiencing high levels of stress.”

As a result, the Mental Health First Aid is launching an ‘Address Your Stress’ campaign this week to try and highlight that by tackling stress, it can go a long way to reducing instances of mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.   Certainly with 12.5 million working days being lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety and 526,000 workers citing they experienced work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17¹, it’s worth flagging.

And it’s not just the workforce of today that’s worried about mental health in the workplace, it’s the workforce of tomorrow who is concerned about it.

In a study of 1,000 graduates about mental health issues entering into the workplace by Debut (a leading student and graduate careers app that connects young talent with leading employers),

It has revealed that most of today’s graduates are scared to admit their mental health issues. They fear it will have a negative impact on their career progression and position. In fact, 70% of UK graduates would avoid informing prospective or new employers about their mental health issues and 88% said they believed there is still a negative stigma attached to admitting to suffering from a mental health issue. Not good.

When asked what form of ‘off the record’ support they would prefer to use, interestingly the graduates still favoured traditional means of communication. 61% opted for a face-to-face meeting, whilst only 19% went for WhatsApp, or other instant online chat, 10% email, 7% video call and 3% SMS / text-messaging (3%).

Charlie Taylor, Founder and CEO of Debut said, “Supporting new graduates as they transition from university to work should be a major consideration of progressive employers. If graduate recruitment specialists want to attract - and more importantly keep - the best talent as they emerge from education, they need to know what issues students and graduates are facing, and how best to support them.”

Clearly, there are concerns as to how we deal with mental health issues in the workplace. And whilst different age groups obviously place different weightings as to the reality of stress and mental health, and how we deal with it, it’s almost by the by. Work-related stress exists. Mental health issues exist. The debate is ongoing, which is important. But this needs more than words, it needs action.

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[¹] http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/

 

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

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Shining a light on mental health awareness