Insurance · 24 May 2016

Employees with mental health problems want workplace depression screening

depression screening
Taking small steps to support staff at an early stage can result in significant cost savings for small businesses

Some sixty per cent of people suffering mental health problems want employers to offer free depression screening, a new survey carried out by AXA PPP Healthcare has revealed.

The research also found that more than 80 per cent of those suffering mental ill health had put off seeking professional help, with half admitting this was because they didn’t want to admit they had a problem.

“Our research suggests that people living with mental ill health would value the offer of free screening for mental health problems, such as depression, in the workplace. If such a service was widely available, we might see an increase in employees seeking and receiving support for their mental health sooner – before reaching crisis point,” said Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services at AXA PPP Healthcare.

“Adopting this approach would also demonstrate to employees that their psychological wellbeing really matters and, in turn, should help to break down the stigma surrounding mental ill health at work.”

The majority of those surveyed who had eventually sought help for a psychological illness expressed a wish that they’d dealt with the problem sooner.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) published advice on how small employers can best manage mental health issues in the workplace in 2011. The guide – developed in collaboration with mental health charity Mind – outlined behaviours that may indicate a worker is experiencing mental distress. Employers were advised to look out for distracted, withdrawn, aggressive or illogical behaviour in staff, as well as anyone who appears to be struggling to take information in.

Yet the guidance also warned against jumping to conclusions based on behaviour, cautioning: “If you suspect an employee may be experiencing mental distress, it’s important not to make assumptions, but to consult them first about any impact this may or may not have.”

Mental health problems affect one-in-six British workers every year, and cost businesses £26bn in sickness and absence.

“Employees will experience work related stress and mental health problems in any business, but some small employers may have concerns about how they can support staff experiencing mental health issues and the cost implications for their business,” said Sophie Corlett, director of external relations at Mind.

“The fact is, taking small steps to support staff at an early stage can result in significant cost savings for small businesses.”

Got a question about mental health in the workplace? Use the Q&A box below to tap into the expertise of our Bupa health expert.

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Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.