Tacking mental distress at work

Mental health

Nearly nine out of 10 people with experience of mental ill-health have at times felt “distressed” in the workplace, and nearly two thirds of Britons say they want to build their ability to bounce back from setbacks, two separate studies have concluded.

Employee health and wellbeing – tackling mental distress at work

Nearly nine out of 10 people (88%) who have experienced mental health problems admit there have been times where they felt distressed in the workplace, according to a study by Unum and the Mental Health Foundation.

Almost two in five people (39%) with no history of mental health problems indicated they too had experienced similar emotions.

Almost half (49%) of those surveyed who had experienced a mental health problem in the last five years had also come to work while experiencing suicidal thoughts, the study argued.

Intriguingly, 5% of the managers surveyed who argued they had not experienced a mental health problem had also gone to work while experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings.

Jenny Edwards, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said this illustrated that distress at work should not be seen as something confined to those with diagnosed mental health problems. “This is why businesses need to take a whole company approach to addressing mental health within the workplace.”

The research has come as, separately, a study by AXA PPP healthcare has concluded that nearly two thirds of Britons (62%) say they want to build their ability to bounce back from setbacks, yet only 15% rate the overall resilience of the UK population as “high”.

The survey of 2,000 adults was published to coincide with Time To Talk Day in February.

Desire for resilience

This desire for greater resilience was highest among 18-24 year-olds, with 78% wanting to be more resilient. More than a third (35%) of this age group believed being more resilient would help them at work (compared with just 6% of those aged 55+), it added.

So, what does this all show employers?

First, as highlighted on this site back in the autumn, managing employees who are in distress or threatening self-harm can be challenging. You have to take it seriously, of course, but at the same time, management can involve making tough decisions that people may not like and having “difficult” conversations.

EAPs can be a valuable resource in this context, both as somewhere “safe” and confidential for employees to go, but also as a resource for managers in terms of best practice advice and support and how to respond to what will often be a difficult and emotionally challenging situation.

The AXA PPP research, meanwhile, illustrates the appetite that is there – potentially – for tools and training to build resilience, especially among younger workers who may have yet to have developing the same sort of day-to-day coping mechanisms of their older colleagues.

Positive messages

Either way, this is yet more evidence that being proactive and engaging – offering tools, advice, resources, and interventions – is often an effective way forward when it comes to tackling mental ill health.

Not only, of course, can these tools help directly, they also send a powerful indirect message that, as an employer, mental ill-health is an issue you are taking seriously.

In turn, this will help to create an environment where it is OK, where people feel confident, to raise issues and concerns about mental and emotional health without fear of being stigmatised.

Given the amount of evidence that is out there to suggest many organisations have a long way to go on breaking down these barriers and taboos, that is a virtuous circle we should all be aiming for.

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Posted in News,Occupational health by OH Assist on the 21st April 2017

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