Companies urged to do more to tackle stigma of mental ill health at work
Research for the mental health charity See Me found 38% think people in their workplace would be unlikely to speak about a mental health problem for fear of losing their job.
The same proportion also believe people would keep difficulties with their mental health to themselves for fear of being discriminated against by colleagues, according to the survey by Censuswide.
In the wake of those findings, See Me called on companies to do more to tackle the stigma surrounding mental ill health.
Director Wendy Halliday said: “If stigma persists, people leave jobs – it doesn’t matter if they’re the best member of staff, if they can’t cope and they aren’t supported, they won’t stay.”
She added: “Tackling stigma and discrimination at work is more than just putting up posters and arranging wellbeing sessions – there needs to be a thorough and considered drive to improve cultures, policies and practices to remove stigma.
“If workplaces properly support staff struggling with their mental health then it can increase productivity, reduce sickness rates and help employees return to work quicker.
“We’re calling on organisations to be real leaders in creating positive change, making their workplaces the best they can be, by joining the See Me in Work programme. They can save money, enhance their reputation and improve the working lives of every one of their employees.”
See Me ambassador and BBC technology reporter Shiona McCallum kept her experiences of PTSD to herself as she was worried about the impact it would have on her career and how people in work would react.
She said: “I really struggled to cope with it and I didn’t think people would listen properly and understand it, because on the outside everything looked normal. I spent a lot of time worrying.
“I had to eventually take time off work when everything got bad. I went over and over in my head, thinking my colleagues wouldn’t understand why I was off, that my boss wouldn’t get it and then I wouldn’t be given any responsibility at work.
“I thought it would lead to a backwards step with my career because people would judge me.”
When she did open up to her manager she received a positive response, recalling: “When I did tell my boss, she was very understanding, so I didn’t experience the stigma from others, it was almost a stigma that I had self-imposed.
“There’s still a lot to be done in the workplace so people don’t feel like that.”
Ms Halliday said: “Mental health stigma and discrimination in the workplace often comes from a lack of knowledge. People can find that genuine problems are either belittled or not believed in the first place.
“People don’t want to say how they are feeling as they’re worried that their managers and colleagues will think less of them, they might lose their job, or be seen as inadequate and incompetent.”
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