Brian Hall: Why the PM’s mental health review needs to tackle workplace

The Prime Minister’s review of mental health needs to address the devastating impact preventable stress is having on workers says BHSF Employee Benefits managing director Brian Hall

Brian Hall BHSFThe Prime Minister is focusing on school age mental health provision, but the generations who are already in work and struggling to cope must also be top of the mental health agenda. Professional and personal stress-triggers are leading to mental health issues on an unprecedented scale across the UK workforce and these issues must be addressed now.

Mental health issues are being chronically underestimated by employers, with nearly two thirds – 63 per cent – of employees admitting that stress keeps them awake at night, according to our research. Employers are failing to spot the all-important symptoms of stress. But with simple training put in place to spot stress-triggers, employee mental health issues could be prevented, rather than cured.

Research we carried out last year found nearly 25 percent of those who responded, the equivalent to one quarter of the entire UK working population, answered that
stress or other personal issues had forced them to take time off work.

There is a devastating picture emerging, where professional and personal stress-triggers are directly leading to mental health issues and absenteeism. If left unaddressed, this problem could reach epidemic proportions – having a huge impact on the working population, and workplace productivity.

While it is encouraging to see the issue of mental health raising up the agenda, it’s essential that the government makes the working population a priority.  Productivity is one of the biggest problems facing the UK economy at present. In order to address this major issue, businesses must take a proactive approach to employee mental health to ensure employee mental health does not have a long-term impact on economic growth.

Businesses must take responsibility and focus on creating a resilient workforce, where prevention is a priority rather than waiting until it is too late, and then providing support for employees already dealing with mental health issues.

Employers must also address the perceived stigma around mental health. Our research has found that 53 percent of employees admitted that they would not approach their employer with a mental health issue and only 17 percent of workers benefit from employer mental health initiatives.

The continuing reluctance to approach employers with stress or mental health issues is hiding the true scale of the problem. Many of the issues that contribute to stress are outside an employer’s direct control, but those issues are clearly having an impact on productivity and employee performance.

Employers must be encouraged to take a more proactive approach to employee mental health, and this approach must start now if we are to prevent the ticking time bomb under employee mental health and work place productivity reaching epidemic proportions among the UK working population.