With World Mental Health day (Saturday 10th October) taking place last month, and the current Time to Talk campaign from mental health charity Time to Change, the psychological well-being of the country has never been so widely discussed.
Even TV juggernaut X-Factor got inadvertently involved last week, with judge Cheryl Fernandez-Versini being slammed in the media for the way her act portrayed ‘crazy’ as part of Halloween week on the show.
Cheryl Cole: “the theme was crazy, there were people in straight jackets” – not cool using mental illness as an X-factor “theme”, not cool.
— Emma gannon (@girllostincity) November 1, 2014
It seems that, bit by bit, the stigma surrounding mental health is being eroded, and the outraged accusations of prejudice levelled at the show are testament to the public’s lack of tolerance for negative stereotypes of this kind.
So why then, does research from BUPA show that a staggering 94% of UK business leaders say that mental health discrimination is a problem in their workplace? From an employee’s point of view, one in five employees affected by mental health conditions have felt under pressure to resign.
Grit your teeth
From personal experience, it’s easy to see why those 20% feel this way. In a previous job, I had a boss who dismissed my sporadic panic attacks and bouts of anxiety as me ‘being soft’. I was told to just grit my teeth and get on with my job as there were things to do. Changing my shift for counselling sessions was a huge bone of contention, and resulted in me terminating my sessions after just two of the recommended twelve. Had this boss not left shortly after, I certainly would have.
Sadly, there’s no quick fix when it comes to turning around these statistics. There are things that both employees and their bosses can do to get things moving though.
Firstly, employees with mental health issues need to be open about their condition, how it affects them, and answer honestly when asked if any support is needed in the workplace. Of course, this is FAR easier said than done, but with recent media campaigns championing this, perhaps those affected will start to open up more.
A survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation found that approximately two thirds of people suffering from mental health difficulties believe that long hours, unrealistic workloads or bad management at work caused or exacerbated their condition.
It’s clear that more support from business leaders is sorely needed, and I believe that education is the key. Teaching employers, managers and line managers to recognise early signs of mental health decline would be a great front-line proactive defence. Teaching businesses that focussing a little less on how much money is coming in, and a little more on the well-being of their employees is, in the long term, a viable strategy.
Lancashire Care, who facilitated mindfulness courses for staff, reported that days off sick through stress, anxiety and depression were reduced from 2278 the year before to just 457 the year after. This figure alone should act as a wake up call for British business leaders.
— Lancashire Care (@LancashireCare) October 18, 2011
Perhaps if these techniques are implemented, the stigma that fuels discrimination against those with mental health issues will be eroded even further and become a relic of a bygone age. Here’s hoping.