More than 60% of sufferers do not speak about mental health issues at work

Barbara Harvey

Two-thirds (66%) of workers have personally experienced mental ill-health, but the majority (61%) of these individuals have not spoken to anyone at work about their problems, according to a study by professional services organisation Accenture.

The survey of 2,170 UK employees, conducted in October 2018 through the YouGov Omnibus service, also revealed that half (51%) of respondents felt that raising a concern about their mental health issues might negatively affect their career or prevent them from being promoted, while 53% said that they felt opening up about a mental health challenge at work would be perceived as a sign of weakness.

Barbara Harvey (pictured), managing director at Accenture and mental health lead for the organisation’s business in the UK, said: “It’s clear that mental health is not a minority issue. It touches almost all employees and can affect their ability to perform at work and live life to the fullest.”

One in four (27%) respondents stated that they had seen positive change in employees speaking openly about mental ill-health within their organisations. One in five reported an improvement in workplace training to help them manage their own mental health (20%) or help them support colleagues (19%).

Among those who had spoken about mental health at work, four in five (81%) experienced a positive reaction of empathy or kindness. More than two-fifths (44%) said it was a relief to open up, while nearly a third (31%) felt it had helped them take positive steps towards getting help.

Nearly two-thirds (61%) of those who did speak to someone at work said they shared their challenge first with a close colleague. Line managers were chosen as a first point of contact by 39%, and HR or wellbeing specialists were the choice for 15% of respondents.

Harvey said: “It’s time for employers to think differently about how they support their employees’ mental wellbeing. It’s not only about spotting the signs of declining mental health and helping employees seek treatment when needed. Employers need to take a proactive approach by creating an open, supportive work environment that enables all their people to look after their mental health and support their colleagues.”