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Insecurity and stress at work on the rise?
Stress and mental health remain taboo subjects in the workplace, according to a new campaign by Mind. For their 'Taking Care of Business' initiative, the charity commissioned the polling group Populus to complete an online survey of over 2000 people in employment in England and Wales. Among the stand-out results, 41 per cent said they felt stressed at work, two thirds felt under more pressure because of the financial downturn, yet one in five said they felt mentioning stress would risk being made redundant, and 41 per cent said stress was a taboo topic at work.
Mind estimate that British businesses lose £26 billion each year in sickness absence and lost productivity. With greater awareness and mental health support, they said businesses could save one third of these costs - 'a mammoth £8 billion a year'. The charity is calling for businesses to make cultural changes including treating mental health problems as they would treat physical problems; encouraging open and supportive work environments where mental health can be discussed without fear of discrimination; and for businesses of all sizes to make supporting staff well-being a priority.
Chartered psychologist and Honorary BPS Fellow Professor Cary Cooper (Lancaster University Management School) told us that mental health stigma at work had always been a problem, but that now it's even worse: 'Because of the downturn, people are feeling job insecure and more than ever they're frightened of admitting that they're not coping.'
Could psychology as a profession be doing more to help? 'I think our responsibility is to highlight that people can function perfectly well having bipolar disorder, having mild depression and so on; and that even if it's more serious, they can get treated and can recover; and the more we say that, the better,' Cooper said. 'Also, the more we can convey that it's not uncommon, the better. Twenty per cent of the people everybody is going to meet today will have suffered or are currently suffering from depression.'
In a related development, several social psychiatrists and mental health charity leaders wrote a letter to The Guardian in June warning that planned changes to the benefits system 'will put people with mental health problems under even more pressure and scrutiny, at a time when they are already being hit in other areas such as cuts to services'.
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