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Majority of bosses don’t believe that mental illness warrants time off

Category: Industry News, Health, mental, healthcare and pharmaceutical, mental illness

Majority bosses don’t believe mental warrants time off

Almost seven in ten UK bosses do not believe that mental illnesses including depression, anxiety and stress warrant time off.

Research from AXA PP healthcare noted that 69% do not feel these problems are serious enough for staff to be off of work.

When asked how they would react if an employee they manage was suffering from a mental health issue, one in five said they would worry about the employee’s capability to do their job and one in six said they would worry about the consequences for themselves personally, such as it reflecting poorly on their management style or having to pick up additional work.

This is despite a quarter of managers acknowledging that they have experienced a mental health problem themselves – a finding that mirrors exactly the response of employees when asked the same question.

Dr Mark Winwood, director of clinical psychology at AXA PPP healthcare, says: “Stress and mental health issues affect one in four people on average in any given year and one in six at any given time.

“With this rate of occurrence, we need to work harder to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental ill health. Businesses are well placed to lead the way to changing this harmful prejudice by giving their employees the necessary tools and support to enable them to discuss mental health in an open and unbiased way.

“Lack of understanding breeds fear so improving employees’ awareness and understanding of mental illness is one of the most important things a company’s senior management team can do and a critical first step is to challenge the stigma surrounding mental ill health in the workplace."

When asked if they would be honest with their line manager when calling in sick because they were suffering from stress, anxiety or depression, only 39% of employees said they would tell the truth.

For those that stated they would avoid telling the truth, one in seven said they were afraid they would not be believed while 23% were afraid of being judged and the same amount preferred to keep their health issues private. Seven per cent said they feared their line manager’s reaction to being told the truth.

Winwood recommended a few ways businesses could improve understanding of mental illness.

“Employers can begin by introducing a number of small but important changes such as promoting an open and honest culture where the facts about mental ill health are freely communicated and discussed. I have seen that senior managers who have been open and felt able to share their own experiences of mental health challenges and worries have often succeeded in developing an environment that is more accepting. Training and supporting managers to deal with employees affected by mental ill health (including letting them know what employee assistance programmes are available) will also help to give them the confidence to provide effective support where and when it is needed.”

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