Younger workers not disclosing mental health problems

PMI Health Group director Mike Blake

Just 35 per cent of UK workers who have suffered from mental health problems have talked to their manager about these issues, driven by fear over job prospects and concern they would receive inadequate support, new research has revealed.

The study of 1,388 workers commissioned by Willis PMI Group, part of Willis Towers Watson, found that silence was particularly prevalent among younger employees. Only 26 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds say they talked to their manager, compared to 38 per cent of 45 to 64-year-olds.

The biggest reason why workers suffering with mental health issues do not talk to management is the fear it will impact upon job prospects. This was cited by 33 per cent of respondents, followed by the worry they would not receive adequate support, a concern for 30 per cent, with 28 per cent concerned their manager would not understand and 23 per cent fearing it might make management think less of them.

But workers were found to be more open about mental health issues outside of work, with 82 per cent of those surveyed said they would talk to their family and friends if they were suffering from mental health issues.

The study found that 30 per cent of UK workers believe mental illness is a private issue that should be dealt with by the individual. Older generations appear more open, with only 26 per cent of 45 to 64-year-olds holding this belief, compared to 32 per cent of 16 to 44-year-olds.a

Willis PMI Group director Mike Blake says: “Mental illness remains an incredibly delicate subject and one that requires urgent attention from employers in order to better manage staff wellbeing and sickness absence.

“It is unlikely we would ever see a case with physical illness where most people are unwilling to report it to management, so companies must ensure employees with mental health issues do not suffer in silence. The proper recording of sickness and absence related to mental health is a crucial first step in tackling the problem, but this can only happen if staff are given the assurance they can report issues in confidentiality and without judgement.”