Poor mental health affects half of all employees
According to a survey of 44,000 people carried out by the mental health charity, Mind, poor mental health affects half of all employees. Yet, only half of those experiencing these problems had talked to their employer about it.
The common reasons people tend to hide their worries include fear, shame, and job insecurity.
Natalie Hunt, 34, got her first job at 18. Working in a department store and serving customers she found extremely stressful.
“It was dealing with complaints and helping people with queries. I’d had anxiety and depression as a teenager and the full-time job made me really anxious. I began to get shy and withdrawn, going more and more into myself, and I was worried about having a panic attack at work.”
“Colleagues started to notice and eventually my boss wanted a word.”
Natalie recalls that at the time, her employer didn’t seem to understand or know what to do as there was no support. Not long after she left the workplace altogether and took up an art course at college.
Now, Natalie teaches art classes to people with mental health problems at a homeless shelter. To supplement, she still works part-time in an office, even though her poor mental health can occasionally still plague her in this setting.
Her new work setting has flexible hours and regular catch-ups – where Natalie says having a supportive workplace makes a huge difference for her.
“I first started back in the workplace with a bit of voluntary work in a charity shop, which was great. Because it was voluntary and part-time, I didn’t feel pressured and it helped me regain some confidence. That was when I was 20.
“Now I run my own art classes for people with mental health conditions. It’s lovely to be making a difference.”
While cases such as Natalie’s return to the workplace highlights the benefits of a supportive employer, there are far more cases of modern workplaces still not getting it right. According to Mind, around 300,000 people in the UK lose their job each year due to a mental health problem. Further, a recent poll by the Institute of Directors suggests that less than one in five companies offered mental health training for managers.
The study cited poor relationships with line managers, along with excess workload, having the biggest negative impact on employees’ mental health, closely followed by poor relationships with colleagues.