Author: By Dr Chuk Anyaegbuna, Clinical Lead at Koa Health – Employee mental health and wellbeing solutions

Whatever your industry, chances are mental health is impacting your workforce. A recent large-scale study of 17,000 people around the UK revealed that 1 in 2 people experience significant mental health difficulties. Last year alone, poor mental health-related absenteeism, presenteeism and labour turnover cost UK companies £56 billion.

Perhaps because of this, employers are more motivated than ever to support their teams’ wellbeing. They’re hard at work doing their best to address mental health in the workplace and have undertaken large-scale initiatives to improve employee wellbeing. But significant barriers to mental wellness continue to keep employees from accessing the support they need. And they don’t just impact those employees living with a diagnosed mental health condition. Everyone, wherever they may fall within the range from mentally healthy to mentally ill, can benefit from learning new coping skills to help support their mental health. But the first step to overcoming obstacles is identifying them. Some common barriers to mental wellness that may be impacting your employees include:

1)Treatment stigma

People often don’t seek or delay seeking care because of the ongoing stigma of living with mental health conditions. In the UK, 70-75% of people who experience mental illness receive no treatment whatsoever. Worries about anticipated discrimination, others’ disapproval, and the desire to avoid stigma may limit a person’s willingness to get help. This is especially true in lower-trust workplaces where employees may not feel comfortable calling attention to their struggles.

2)Self-limiting attitudes

Far too often, when people are dealing with poor mental health, limiting beliefs get in the way of them receiving the assistance and support they need:

 ‘That won’t work for me. I’m too set in my ways.’

‘I’m not that unhappy—I just need to buck up.’

 ‘I just need to make it through this next project, and I’ll feel better.’

Thoughts like the above may be keeping many of your staff from using the resources (particularly more traditional face-to-face care) your organisation currently provides to support their wellbeing.

3)Difficulty accessing care

Beyond stigma and self-limiting beliefs, expense, time, and inconvenience are substantial barriers to busy workers pursuing care regardless of whether services are provided by private insurers or their public health system. The current wait times for mental health care via the NHS is 18 weeks or longer, with 1.5 million people waiting for services in England alone.  It’s important to note that within the confines of the existing model for mental healthcare (whether privately or publicly funded), these essential services are only available to people with an official diagnosis.

The reality is, for the great majority of workers, there are very few options for mental health support without a referral from a medical professional. Fewer still address the very real barriers that stigmas and self-limiting beliefs create. Too often, this combination of obstacles means that until an employee’s mental health reaches a crisis or near-crisis state, they’re operating without a net. And when mental health goes unsupported, employees and the organisations they work for reap the consequences.

To find out more about the hurdles your workforce faces around mental wellness and how you can help your employees overcome them, access our free report, ‘Helping your employees overcome barriers to mental wellness‘. You’ll learn:

-The business risks of poor mental health

-The role of employee wellbeing in business success

-Practical ways to improve access and support your team