94% of leaders admit mental health prejudice

Patrick Watt-Bupa-2014

Some 94% of UK business leaders say that prejudice towards those with mental health conditions is still abundant in the UK’s largest organisations, according to research by Bupa.

Its Breaking the silence report, which surveyed 50 business leaders and 500 workers both with and without mental health conditions,  also found that a third of business leaders believe that workers with mental health illnesses will fail to return to their full productivity.

Although 88% of this group are trying to encourage an open culture of discussion around mental health, 70% of employees do not feel that they can speak candidly about such concerns or issues.

Just under half (47%) report treading on eggshells around employees who have experienced a mental health condition and a fifth (22%) avoid talking to them completely.

Such prejudices are negatively impacting employees’ progress at work, according to the research. One in five employees (20%) that have suffered with mental health issues have been put under pressure to resign, while half (51%) believe they are less likely to get promoted.

Meanhwile, just over a quarter (27%) of business leaders believe that workers with mental health illnesses will fail to return to full productivity. Yet more than half (53%) of employees experiencing these conditions feel they are still top performers. 

Patrick Watt (pictured), corporate director at Bupa, said: “Despite business leaders recognising the importance of addressing mental health at work, there is still a long way to go to break down the wall of silence and create genuine change.

“Businesses must take immediate action. Managers need to be trained to spot the signs and know how to support employees to get the right help. 

“Great talent is being lost and demotivated due to a lack of understanding about mental health. Yet, it is perfectly possible for employees to return to work after a mental illness, and not only perform, but excel in their roles. 

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at charity Mind, said: “This latest research from Bupa echoes our own findings: that mental health is still a taboo in the workplace.

“It’s good that organisations are increasingly acknowledging the importance of prioritising the wellbeing of their staff, with those who make mental health a priority seeing the benefits in terms of increased staff productivity and morale; and decreased sickness absence.

“But clearly senior business leaders still hold some outdated and damaging views about the impact a mental health problem can have on somebody’s ability to carry out their role.”