The scale of the problem
It is estimated that 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health issue in the course of a year. Anxiety and depression are the most common. According to the 2015 CIPD Absence Management Survey, two-fifths of employers reported an increase in stress and mental health issues. In the public sector that figure increased to half. The three biggest causes of stress were stated to be workloads, non-work factors, such as relationships and family, and management style. But it’s not just the personal cost.
The Centre for Mental Health estimates that 91 million days are lost each year due to mental health issues. This costs employers £26 billion a year. That’s £1,035 for every single employee in the UK.
In addition, the stigma of mental health issues and fear of discrimination mean that employees can be reluctant to admit to a stress or mental health issue. In a July 2015 survey carried out by Mind, the mental health charity, 48% of employees said that they would feel uncomfortable talking to their employers about their mental health. That view is echoed by Ruby Wax, who, despite being a long-standing campaigner on mental health issues, believes that people with a mental health issue should not tell their bosses about it. In a recent Blake Morgan survey, 65% of respondents gave shame, social stigma and fear of detriment as reasons why employees may feel unable to be open with their employers.
Businesses are already under pressure. In many organisations outsourcing and restructuring have resulted in reduced headcount and budgets. Very few organisations can afford to have their staff, particularly in key roles, absent from their business for, potentially, an extended period, or easily meet the additional management costs incurred.