Insight: two thirds of workers open up over mental health to colleagues – Indeed

Workers are more likely than not to open up to colleagues about their mental health after more than half of employers have put in place training to identify symptoms, new research by the world’s largest jobs site, Indeed, reveals.

Indeed’s research, carried out to coincide with World Mental Health Day, found just how common mental health issues are – but how workers of all ages are more likely than not to tell someone at work about their problems.

In a UK-wide poll of more than 1,500 employees and employers, 24% of workers said they currently have a mental health condition and23% have had one in the past[1] – the same proportion indicated by the mental health charity Mind.

Encouragingly, nearly two thirds (64%) of responses from workers who either have or had a mental health problems mentioned discussing them at work.

However, a significant number (45%) of responses indicated they had not, which may have led many bosses to underestimate just how many of their staff are wrestling with mental health issues. Nearly two in five (38%) of the employers surveyed said fewer than 10% of their staff have a mental health condition, whereas the real figure is more than double that at 24%.

The research also revealed the true toll mental health problems take on productivity. Last year, more than 15.4 million working days[3] were lost due to mental health and more than a quarter of employees with mental health conditions (28%) say they have missed work because of it – and then told bosses or colleagues it was for another reason. Only a quarter (25%) of workers said they are upfront about having to take time off for mental health reasons.

Mental health conditions appear commonest among younger workers – with more than a third (36%) of those aged between 16 and 24 saying they currently have one, well above the 27% of the age group with the next highest incidence, workers aged 25-34.

Men are most prone to suffering in silence, with male sufferers less likely than women to discuss a mental health issue at work. Almost half (47%) of men with a mental health condition have never raised it at work, compared to 43% of female sufferers.

Bosses are also just as likely as their staff to suffer from mental health problems themselves. A fifth (20%) of employers say they currently have a mental health condition and 33% have had one in the past.

Policymakers have spoken of ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health and the research suggests employers are alert to the growing focus on wellbeing.

Despite workers’ fears of the perceived stigma attached to mental health, employers are largely receptive to workers discussing the topic with them. Two thirds (67%) of employers say they would feel confident about approaching staff they feel might be at risk and offering support. Fully three quarters (76%) said they would be happy for an employee to talk to them about their mental health concerns.

Nevertheless, the survey found that despite the perceived taboo, support is available in many companies. Of the employers surveyed, half (51%) said their company offers training in how to spot and deal with potential mental health problems among their team — although 17%admitted their scheme was not effective.