May 21, 2010 - Anonymous

Workplace mental health campaign aims to help one in ten

Charity Mind has launched a campaign to raise awareness of mental health problems in the workplace, after research found that ten per cent of employees have sought help from their doctor since the recession.

The survey of 2,050 employees in March 2010 also found that seven per cent had started a course of anti-depressants for stress and mental health problems directly caused by the pressures of the recession on their workplace.

Mind chief executive, Paul Farmer, said the campaign was targeting businesses and aiming to put an end to the stigma attached to mental illness at work, and encourage businesses to develop mental health policies.

“A bad work environment can be damaging and can trigger a wide range of problems, from exhaustion to depression, while having a good working life is proven to be an asset for our overall mental health,” he said.

“Working conditions have been incredibly tough for the last couple of years and the emotional fall-out of the recession doesn’t just centre on people who have lost their jobs. It also affects people who are struggling to cope with the extra demands of working harder, longer hours and who are under more pressure as their employers’ battle for survival,” he added. “It’s more important than ever that businesses look at how they can manage stress levels and improve the working environment for all their employees.”

Farmer said that businesses that invest in employee well-being benefit in terms of reduced sickness absence and increased productivity. “Small changes can have big results, such as making sure staff take their breaks and making time to listen to their concerns,” he said.

Forum of Private Business spokesman, Chris Gorman, said that employers who communicate with their staff can help to reduce stress. “If a business faces an uncertain future and employees don’t know what is going on, over-pessimistic rumours tend to spread,” he said.

“If business owners do everything they can to let their staff know what’s going on, that can reduce the anxiety that leads to stress and depression,” added Gorman.

However, he added that there is a limit to how much employers can intervene. “Stress and depression can often stem from events in the employee’s personal life, but their work suffers,” said Gorman. “The employer has a duty of care towards their staff but there is not much they can do other than be as understanding as they can. Although staff well-being is in the employer’s interest, their main priority will be running the business.”