Author: By Dr Sophie Dix, VP of Content at Koa Health – Employee Mental Health and Wellbeing Solutions

Let’s start with the number one myth that impacts most organisations sooner or later: Mental health isn’t a problem for my workforce.

Also known as everything is fine, nothing to see here. Unfortunately, the recent data on mental health indicates otherwise: Significant mental health issues affect 1 in 4 people in the UK annually—nearly 17 million people in 2022 alone. A recent study by Surgo Ventures of 17,000 people across the UK puts that number even higher, at 1 in 2—that means that half the people you know could be affected by a mental health concern.

In data more specific to the UK workplace, poor mental health was the top cause of sick leave in 2021. 61% of employees who left jobs blamed poor mental health. Labour turnover related to poor mental health racked up £22 billion in expenses, and mental-health-related absenteeism and presenteeism accounted for another £34 billion (Deloitte). Worse still, most research doesn’t consider the many people (some of them working in your company) who may not have a formal diagnosis.

The next commonplace myth about mental health? Only people with a diagnosed condition need/want/expect mental health support. This is simply untrue. The ongoing stigma associated with using mental health support keeps many people from seeking care as they worry about not just what people may think but being deserving of/ sick enough to warrant care.

This even though mental health problems are very, very common—1 in 4 people in England experience a mental health problem of some sort every year. 1 in 6 people deal with a common problem such as anxiety or depression in any given week (Mind). But nearly everyone (wherever they fall on the scale of mentally unwell to mentally healthy) could benefit from mental health guidance and support to acquire better coping skills and healthier behaviours. Mental health is very similar to physical health—it is best maintained with regular, health-building habits. Unfortunately, even if these individuals overcome their discomfort in seeking out mental health services, they’re unlikely to qualify for a referral. One way to break down this particular barrier is by offering access to discreet tech-enabled tools that people can access on their own terms.

Many employers hesitate to provide mental health support because of myth number three: Employees don’t want mental health support from employers.

Not only do people across the full continuum of mental health, from mentally healthy to mentally unwell, need support, but they also want that support to come from their employers. Recent data from Deloitte indicates that 52% of employees don’t feel employers support their mental health. Still, the majority—81% expect help from employers, and a little over 1/3 of employees would also appreciate additional guidance to help them support their friends, family and colleagues’ mental health. About the same proportion say they are more likely to stay with an organisation with solid mental health and wellbeing provisions. Mental health is a top-ranked priority among Gen Z and Millennial job-seekers (Deloitte). Furthermore, employees trust employers more than anyone except healthcare professionals they see in person to provide access to the care they need (Mercer).

Last but not least, the idea that ‘Mental health only impacts the mind’ must be addressed. Far from being confined to someone’s mind, individual mental health impacts everything from an individual’s physical resilience and overall wellbeing to their work and the people around them (in both their professional and personal lives). Mental ill health’s impact reaches far beyond the workplace, lowering productivity and engagement and heightening labour turnover, absenteeism and presenteeism (Deloitte).

According to data from WHO, Mental disorders are the world’s leading cause of disability. People with severe mental health conditions die an average of 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population, primarily due to preventable physical diseases. Poor mental health also exacerbates physical illness, negatively affecting the cost of treatment and outcomes at an estimated expense of £8 billion yearly (The King’s Fund).

Download our free report, ‘The state of mental health in the workplace’ to find out more, including:

-How mental wellbeing is impacting today’s workplace

-Why mental health must be viewed as a continuum

-5 key indicators to help you evaluate potential mental health solutions