Mental health issues, employment, and the workplace
The number of people suffering from mental health issues is rising rapidly. In fact, it is predicted that one in four people will suffer from some form of mental disorder during their lifetime. This figure includes depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, substance abuse and drug addiction.
Employers have an obligation to provide reasonable adjustments to enable disabled individuals to perform the essential functions of their jobs. These include making changes to the way things are done, such as providing alternative equipment, restructuring tasks, changing working hours or allowing flexible breaks.
There are many different types of mental health conditions. They range from mild to severe, and can cause significant disruption to daily life. Some examples include depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse and drug dependence.
Line managers play a crucial role in supporting employees who experience mental health difficulties. They can help identify signs of distress, offer support and seek advice from colleagues and external agencies. Managers can also make sure that appropriate training and resources are put into place to assist employees.
If you suspect that an employee is struggling with a mental health issue, talk to them. If necessary, arrange an appointment with a GP or healthcare professional. You could also contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau – they can advise you on what options are available.
You may find that certain mental health conditions are covered by insurance policies. For example, if someone suffers from depression, they may be entitled to receive treatment from their employer. However, there are often restrictions on how much coverage is offered and whether it covers counselling sessions. Speak to your HR department or benefits provider for further information.
In addition to offering assistance to employees experiencing mental health difficulties, employers have a duty to promote equality and diversity within their workforce. This includes ensuring that everyone works in a safe environment free from discrimination.
How employers can support people with mental health conditions
Employees with mental health issues often find themselves struggling to cope with stressors and deal with problems in the workplace. This can make it difficult for them to perform effectively and lead to poor performance.
Mental health issues are common among workers. In fact, around one in five people experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime. Mental health problems can include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, substance abuse, personality disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and post traumatic stress disorder.
Many organizations already offer confidential counselling services, flexible work practices and a supportive environment. However, there is still much more employers can do to support employees with mental health issues.
How employers may help people with mental illnesses
Mental illnesses are often invisible, and many people don’t realize they exist. But there are ways you can spot signs of mental illness in yourself or someone else. If you notice anything unusual about your behavior, mood or thoughts, it could be because of a mental illness. Here are some things to look out for:
• You feel sad, anxious, irritable or angry most days.
• Your sleep patterns change – you might wake up feeling tired even though you got enough rest.
• You lose interest in activities you used to enjoy.
• You start drinking alcohol or taking drugs more frequently.
• You spend money you haven’t saved.
• You skip meals or eat less than usual.
Mental illness, stress, and Management Standards
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) published its latest report into workplace mental health – Mental Illness and Workplace Injuries in England 2017/18. This report provides insight into the prevalence and impact of mental illness among employees across a range of industries.
In addition, it highlights some key recommendations from the HSE’s management standards for addressing mental ill health and reducing workplace stress. These include:
• Developing a culture of openness about mental health issues;
• Providing support for people experiencing mental health difficulties within the workplace;
• Ensuring workplaces are safe environments where people feel comfortable disclosing their mental health concerns.
Employers should consider all aspects related to work design when considering how best to address work-related stress. For example, ensuring workers have access to healthy food and drink options, adequate breaks and opportunities to exercise, and a suitable environment to do their job effectively.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it a legal need to have Mental Health First Aiders?
The government says employers do not have to make sure that every one of their workers has access to mental health support, even though it recommends doing so. There is no set date when businesses must have adequate mental health provision. Instead, the government says employers should look into whether they have taken reasonable steps to assess and meet their workforce’s needs. This includes looking at what kind of training and information is required for people to identify signs of distress and how best to respond.
Employers are encouraged to take action to ensure that all employees have access to appropriate supports and treatment. They could undertake a needs assessment to find out what support is needed and where it might come from. They could also put in place strategies to reduce any risk or increase confidence among colleagues about sharing concerns.
What are the consequences of poor mental health in the workplace?
Approximately 1 in 4 people in Britain will experience a mental illness every year. This affects both men and women equally, although it is most common among those aged 25–44. Over half of people experiencing mental ill health do not receive treatment, and many will struggle without support.
In 2016, 15.8m workdays were lost due to mental ill health in the UK – equivalent to almost one in four working days missed.
The largest causes of sickness absence are depression, stress, anxiety and insomnia. These conditions cost employers around £35bn per annum.
This equates to:
£10.6bn in annual productivity losses,
£9.4bn in absenteeism costs, and
£7.5bn in presenteeism (lost output because of illness).