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Why is mental ill-health so prevalent in the workplace?

Mental heath

According to DR Zain Sikafi, CEO and CO-Founder of Mynurva, the UK is currently battling a mental health crisis. Large numbers of people across the country are suffering from symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress, but few are seeking the treatment or support they need. There are many reasons for this – some have singled out the limited resources of the NHS while others have rightly identified the negative stigma placed on those suffering from mental ill-health.

Public awareness initiatives such as World Mental Health Day and celebrity-led campaigns are bringing mental health issues into the spotlight for discussion. And while important progress is being made, poor mental health still continues to inhibit the daily lives of people.

Importantly, no one is immune to the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, be it a young mother struggling to cope with life’s daily pressures to an entrepreneur in the formative stages of their new business. Mental ill-health is a serious issue that does not discriminate, and that is why it should receive the same amount of attention as a physical illness.

To find out the true extent of the issue, HealthTech company Mynurva recently conducted a survey to see just how many people in the UK workplace have suffered from mental ill-health, and how many have sought treatment for their symptoms.

UK workers are suffering in silence

The responses to the survey were eye-opening; almost a third (32%) of all UK adults in full-time employment claimed to have suffered from mental health problems in the workplace. In real terms, that amounts to 7.5 million people across the country. Yet, despite the high prevalence of mental ill-health, an even higher proportion (37%) of those who are suffering – or have suffered in the past – have never sought any professional help.

Meanwhile, men are more likely to keep their mental health issues from colleagues. According to the research, 42% of working men dealing with a mental health symptom have never seen a mental health professional for their issue, compared with 32% of women. Sadly, stigma and misconceptions clearly continue to present obstacles to those dealing with mental ill-health – particularly for male professionals – despite strong efforts to break down the barriers and encourage people to speak out.

Exploring the specific reasons holding people back from seeking help, Mynurva found that more than half (55%) of working professionals fear that admitting their problems to a manager would hinder their chances of a promotion, while an even higher number (59%) think that if their problems became common knowledge then it would negatively impact their relationships with colleagues.

What can employers do to manage mental health at work?

The numbers from Mynurva’s research are staggering. So what can businesses take away from this research – and how can they improve their employees’ wellbeing? Clearly, there is a pressing need to devote time and resources to creating an open workplace where employees can not only access professional support, but also enjoy the freedom to openly discuss their concerns with managers and even colleagues.

Naturally, confidentially remains a key concern for many workers – 58% of employees worry that their mental health problems would not remain confidential if they were to discuss them in the workplace with their manager or HR team. To overcome this barrier, workplaces should be promoting alternative avenues of support, encouraging employees to speak to their GP if they experience any symptoms of mental ill-health in the workplace, rather than letting them suffer in silence.

Alternatively, live video counselling services like Mynurva offer discreet counselling sessions for those who struggle to find the time to arrange an appointment around their busy working schedule – or don’t feel comfortable physically visiting a healthcare professional. These alternative solutions provide the convenience of flexible appointment times outside of traditional work hours, allowing professionals to talk to a counsellor or therapist from the comfort of their own home.

Poor mental health affects not only the individual but also significantly impacts their performance in the workplace. Making mental health a priority is, therefore, key to fostering a healthier workplace culture and boosting employee wellbeing. While it’s great to see more public discussion about mental health issues, Mynurva’s research shows that a lot more still needs to be done to effectively tackle the UK’s growing mental health crisis, particularly in the workplace.