Mental health issues are being experienced by almost every UK employee confounding beliefs that it only affects a minority of people.
A new Accenture study revealed that two-thirds of workers have personally experienced mental health challenges with 85% saying someone close to them such as a family member, close friend or colleague has suffered from them.
That, added Accenture, is far more than the often-cited figure of one in four people suffering from mental health problems.
For three-quarters of workers, mental health challenges – either their own or those of others – have affected their ability to enjoy life, with 30% reporting they are “occasionally, rarely or never” able to enjoy and take part fully in everyday life.
Over three-quarters of the workers surveyed said they were more willing to speak openly about their mental health issues now than they were just a few years ago.
However, the workplace has failed to keep pace, as only one in four respondents said they had seen any positive change in employees speaking openly about mental health in their organizations. Just one in five reported an improvement in workplace training to help manage their own mental health or to help them support colleagues dealing with mental health challenges.
“We’re used to hearing that one in four people experience mental health challenges, yet our research shows that the number of people affected is in fact far higher,” said Barbara Harvey, a managing director at Accenture and mental health lead for the company’s business in the U.K.
“It’s clear that mental health is not a minority issue; it touches almost all employees and can affect their ability to perform at work and live life to the fullest.”
Harvey added: “It’s time for employers to think differently about how they support their employees’ mental wellbeing.”
She said that this was not only about spotting the signs of declining mental health and helping employees seek treatment when needed. Employers need to take a proactive approach by creating an open, supportive work environment that enables all their people to look after their mental health and support their colleagues.
“The payoff is a healthier, happier organization where people feel energized and inspired to perform at their best,” said Harvey.
Of those who had faced a mental health challenge, the majority had not spoken to anyone at work about their issue. Half of the workers felt that raising a concern about their mental health might negatively affect their career or prevent them from being promoted.
However, hiding mental health issues had a negative impact with more than half feeling stressed, more alone, lacking confidence and being less productive.
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.