Workers hide mental health problems

Many people are failing to disclose a mental health problem to their employer because they are frightened of the impact such a revelation may have. This is according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which - along with the charity Mind - is urging managers to encourage their staff to discuss such issues in 2012.

The organisation noted economic fears means a surge in mental ill health could be on the cards next year.

Findings from the group showed just four-in-ten workers would feel confident opening up to bosses about their mental health, while only 25 per cent of respondents believe their company encourages staff to discuss such topics.

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at CIPD - which has more than 135,000 members worldwide - said managing mental health can be key to good business performance, adding: "Stress is the number one cause of long-term sickness absence, but it is not just time lost to absence which impacts on the bottom line."

Dai Williams, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "CIPD and MIND are wise to highlight the risk of increasing pressures on UK workers - employed, self-employed and volunteers - to be expected as economic conditions get harder.

"In the 1990s recession the effects of rising unemployment, fear of job loss and rising debt increased chronic stress levels among both workers and the unemployed.

"High stress levels adversely affect decision making, work performance and relationships at home and work.

"In the current UK environment, even quite normal fluctuations in mental health and wellbeing - in levels of stress, anxiety, confidence or depression - are quickly pathologised in the media, by less experienced health professionals and by managers who don't have direct access to occupational health professionals.

"Employers can cultivate open, well informed awareness of how mental health conditions are likely to fluctuate in times of stress or change, including trauma and loss, both in work and non-work life.

"This already happens in parts of the armed forces and emergency services e.g. the TRiM (Trauma Risk Management) programmes in the Royal Marines. These encourage teams to be mutually aware of high levels of stress or distress among colleagues and enable individuals to express concerns without fear of stigma.

"Some other countries like Norway are more aware and accepting of mental health fluctuations that affect most people several times in our lives.  

"Psychologists have several roles to play in increasing mental health awareness in organisations and the media. These include public education, training and awareness for management and unions, advice to individuals and specialist advice and support to health professionals.

"Clinical and counselling psychologists have therapeutic skills for individuals in severe distress or with profound underlying conditions. Occupational and health psychologists have roles in raising awareness and skills for dealing with normal, non-pathological fluctuations in mental health and performance, whether arising from work roles, personal life or both."