10% of line managers feel they have received sufficient mental health training

Liz Walker, Unum

Just 10% of line manager respondents feel they have had sufficient training to deal with mental health problems at work, according to research by the Mental Health Foundation and Unum.

The Added value: mental health as a workplace asset report, which surveyed 1,000 employees with lived experience of mental health problems and 1,000 line managers, also found that 20% of line manager respondents believe that employees within their organisation are less likely to progress if they disclose that they have a mental health problem.

The research also found:

  • 34% of respondents diagnosed with a mental health problem in the last five years felt well supported by their line manager.
  • 50% of respondents who disclosed a mental health problem felt well supported by their line manager.
  • 44% of respondents who have had a mental health problem in the past five years and have chosen not to disclose this to their employer cite fear of being discriminated against or harassed by colleagues as the reason for not doing so, 40% felt ashamed to do so, and 45% felt that is was none of their employer’s business.
  • 22% of respondents who have been diagnosed with a mental health problem in the last five years have personally experienced direct discrimination, compared to 29% of employee respondents who chose to disclose information about their mental health.
  • 49% of employee respondents who have experienced a mental health problem in the last five years have come to work while experiencing suicidal thoughts.
  • 86% of respondents believe that their job and being at work is important for protecting and maintaining their mental health.

Jenny Edwards CBE, chief executive officer at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Workplaces need leadership that demonstrates commitment to mental health as an asset of the organisation, and one that is critical to achieving business results or strategic outcomes. This needs to cascade from board champions and senior leadership to middle management and then first line supervisors.

“At each level, leaders need to feel that investing in mental health is a valuable use of their time. At every touch point, whether analysing absence figures in the boardroom or in appraisal and performance management in front line supervision, leaders need to understand how to engage with mental health.”

Liz Walker (pictured), HR director at Unum UK, added: “Employee wellbeing is rising up the agenda of employers in the UK, and a fundamental aspect of this is safeguarding the mental health of staff. Organisations are responsible for ensuring practices are put in place to support those who live with mental health problems, as well as those who may do so in the future.


“Line management plays a critical role in this; being able to spot the signs of distress, intervene early and know what support is available. By embedding a culture that is led by senior management, organisations can encourage a healthier work-life balance that is beneficial for both employee and employer.”