Talking about mental health in the workplace

Discussing mental health can still be taboo in the workplace. The human cost is well-documented, but there is also a strong business case for changing this – a recent report from the Business in the Community (BITC) Workwell group suggests that this is having a detrimental effect on the productivity of UK businesses.

Figures from the report suggest that 15.2million days of sickness absence in 2013 were caused by mental health issues such as stress, anxiety or depression. This figure was 11.8 million in 2010, and the dramatic increase is a worrying rise.

It also poses a question:  if one in six employees are experiencing difficulty with their mental health, why is it that many businesses do not have in place plans to ensure the mental wellbeing of their employees?

Louise Aston from the the Workwell campaign called this a result of the ‘culture of silence’ in this Guardian article. But how can we break down this culture?

Thankfully, the BITC group have been taking positive action: a list of the great and good have taken the Time to Change pledge  including American Express, BaxterStorey, BT; Bupa, BITC, Friends Life, Mars; National Grid, Procter & Gamble, Right Management, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Santander

This move towards businesses recognising the need to address mental health as a serious concern suggest that we can perhaps be hopeful for a future where mental health is no longer such an unspeakable topic. And with people such as Ruby Wax calling for those who are experiencing poor mental health to speak out – we can perhaps look forward this taboo in the workplace is finally broken down.

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