one in five of us had caught flu last winter, we would have rightly called it
an epidemic. With around the same share of the labour force suffering from work
related stress, according to official figures, it’s time to start acknowledging
that mental health at work – of which stress is a part – deserves
not always seen as a credible reason to be off work, the symptoms vary,
colleagues aren’t always sympathetic, and GPs don’t give consistent advice –
and that’s just flu.
parallels with mental health problems are uncomfortable, as new research for
the Department of Health, to be published later in the year, shows. On mental
health too, it emerges, there can be a damaging mismatch between the employee
and employer view of the situation, along with altogether more serious problems
of discrimination and inconsistency in the way the problem is handled, inside
and outside the organisation.
scale of the problem is breathtaking. Around 80 million work days are lost
annually due to mental health problems, at an annual cost of roughly £3.7bn.
Seven out of 10 people with mental health problems have been put off applying
for jobs for fear of unfair treatment; one in three believe they’ve been
dismissed or forced to resign because of discrimination.
few appear to disagree that mental health discrimination wrecks lives, taints
organisations that permit it, wastes human potential on a colossal scale, and
costs businesses in lost production.
like these have led to the Department of Health’s new "Mind Out for Mental
Health" campaign. With the aid of new research, site visits, a management
toolkit, a website and other initiatives, the campaign about to target your
workplace will try to spread the message that mental health discrimination is
unlawful and unacceptable, show how to improve opportunities for those with
mental health problems, and generally end the fear and stigma at work about
carried out by the Industrial Society for the campaign shows just how far we
have to go. The findings will be discussed at a conference on 19 June, but they
already reveal alarming levels of ignorance. Managers and employees freely
admit to a lack of understanding and awareness, which in turn help to explain
the clear evidence of discrimination – and worse – experienced by those with
mental health problems such as depression.
policy makers, there are disturbing signs that the Disability Discrimination
Act is yet to register, let alone bite, in many organisations. And from just
about everyone questioned, there is an urgent plea for easy access to expert
information and advice. The Mind Out for Mental Health campaign could hardly be
information about the conference call organiser the Forster Company on 020-7403
Patrick Burns, Policy director, the Industrial Society