More than a quarter of managers had been diagnosed or treated personally for a mental health related condition, with 28 per cent having been identified as suffering from stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions by a health professional.
A third of managers who have been diagnosed or treated for a mental health condition – 34 per cent – say they feel they are treated worse by their own boss than someone who has a visible or physical illness. And 38 per cent say they feel they’re treated worse by colleagues than someone who has a visible or physical illness, according to research from Axa PPP Healthcare.
Of these, 26 per cent to keep their condition private, with only 19 per cent revealing it to their manager, citing fear of being judged by their colleagues, career prospects and discrimination fears as reasons for doing so.
The research also found 27 per cent of managers are more comfortable discussing employees’ physical health than they are discussing their mental health, while 57 per cent said they felt equally comfortable discussing one or the other.
When asked why they felt more comfortable discussing an employee’s physical health, managers not comfortable discussing mental health cited not knowing enough about the subject compared with physical health, not wanting to upset or offend anyone, and not wanting to say the wrong thing and get in to trouble. Nineteen per cent admitted they wouldn’t know how to start a conversation with an employee about their mental health.
Axa PPP Healthcare director of psychological services Dr Mark Winwood says: “Employers have a duty of care towards their employees’ health and safety, and would therefore be wise to provide managers with suitable training and back-up to ensure they are able to support employees whether their health problem relates to physical health or to mental health. There is still a taboo around mental ill health and, as seen by the responses of the managers we polled, some would seem to be more concerned about getting into trouble or upsetting the employee than they are about the employee’s mental wellbeing. This should simply not be the case – managers should be ready, willing and able to hold a sensitive, supportive conversation with any employee they think is showing signs of ill health.”
“This fear of discrimination demonstrates that there is lack of awareness and understanding of the impact of mental ill health – not only by managers but also by other employees. It is clear from this research that mental ill health is not considered on a par with physical health, leading to fear of isolation, which perpetuates the stigma and prevents employees from seeking help and treatment. Managers need to be able to take a proactive approach to mental health and direct employees appropriately, as identifying an issue yet not providing a solution can be counterproductive.”