People Management - Symptoms of mental ill-health getting more severe

An interesting article written by Lauren brown for People Management around systems of mental health. 

Workers still afraid to reveal true reason for their absence, says survey, with many missing medical appointments.

A third of workers suffering from mental ill-health felt their condition worsened over the past 12 months, research has revealed. 

In addition to finding symptoms became “more severe” for 34 per cent of people in 2018, the study of 2,000 UK employees said more than half (54 per cent) were not aware of any formal support structures within their organisation to help with their mental health.          

Of those surveyed by health tech start-up Mynurva, 49 per cent did not feel there was an appropriate culture in their workplace to enable people to open up about their mental wellbeing.

Dr Zain Sikafi, Mynurva CEO, said: “For those full-time workers suffering from symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression, the negative stigma surrounding mental health can make it incredibly difficult for sufferers to seek help for their conditions.”

More than half (54 per cent) said they struggled to find time in their working day to attend medical appointments, and 40 per cent had missed one or more appointments concerning their mental health because of work commitments.

“It is concerning to see that employees feel they are too busy to be able to leave work and get help for their mental health problems,” Shikafi said. “The research shows the need for a fresh approach to mental health and I encourage employers to review the current systems they have in place to support the wellbeing of their staff.”

The results were echoed by Westfield Health’s inaugural wellbeing index , published yesterday. It revealed 31 per cent of employees felt under pressure to constantly stay late, while others said they ate at their desk (30 per cent), arrived early (39 per cent), took work home (29 per cent) or missed lunch (25 per cent).

Two-fifths (40 per cent) of workers said they had taken time off work due to mental health problems but gave their employer a different reason for their absence. When asked why they felt unable to tell the truth, the most common response was they feared people would assume they were making it up.

David Capper, CEO of Westfield Health, said: “There is a clear need for businesses to think about the future. A culture that rewards staying late and heaps pressure on its staff will pay the price in days lost to mental health issues due to burnout.

“By not dealing with these issues, not only does this have an impact on company bottom line, but it can also cause a drop in productivity levels, affect workplace morale and impact the wellbeing of other members of staff.”

Earlier this month, the CIPD and Simplyhealth released their 2019 Health and Wellbeing at Work report , which found there was cause for optimism.

Employee wellbeing was seen by 61 per cent of respondents to be on senior leaders’ agendas, compared with 55 per cent last year, and absence levels were at the lowest level ever recorded by the survey (5.9 days per employee per year).

But the survey of more than 1,000 people professionals revealed one in six (16 per cent) said their organisation was not doing anything to improve employee wellbeing and almost two-fifths (37 per cent) reported that stress-related absence had increased, with just 8 per cent saying it had fallen.

Just under half (46 per cent) of those who reported their organisation was taking steps to tackle stress believed their efforts were effective.

The report’s authors, CIPD president Professor Sir Cary Cooper, said employers’ increased focus on wellbeing was a ‘cause for optimism’ but added: “There is still a lack of preventative measures being taken and despite employers’ efforts, we are still seeing a worrying increase in poor mental health and work-related stress. This indicates that the steps taken by employers are falling short of what’s needed.”

People Management - Symptoms of mental ill-health ‘getting more severe.