More employees seeking help for mental ill health

There has been a steep increase in the past two years in the number of staff turning to employee assistance programmes (EAPs) for help with mental health issues, according to data released to Occupational Health magazine.

EAP provider Validium has said that it has seen a 70% increase in staff using EAP services between 2010 and 2012, with 60% of all contact from employees concerning personal issues.

The company provides support to more than 250,000 UK employees and data was collected on issues presented to counselling teams between January and March 2010, then during the same period in 2011 and 2012.

While the number of calls relating to divorce and separations remained stable, problems with relationships generally peaked in 2011 before dipping in 2012.

Mental health issues were less likely to be behind contact with the EAP in 2010, but have risen to the same level as calls on relationship problems, it claimed.

Anne Payne, executive director at Validium, said: “The figures are evidence of the cumulative effect of problems created by the recession. What may have started as a normal sense of insecurity, of added pressures, changes at work and financial worries, turns into more serious mental health issues over time.

“We’ve seen how employees appreciate having an expert to speak with, someone unconnected with work or home, and that support is being provided.”

In a separate study by Bupa, data has revealed that a significant minority (26%) of small-business owners admit they do not feel confident about being able to recognise and address ill health, stress or depression among their staff.

Two in five small-business owners said they never spoke to employees about their physical or mental health, and around a quarter said they would rather not speak to anyone about a problem raised by an employee and would not seek professional advice on how to deal with it.

Many felt the whole issue was an invasion of privacy, with one boss in three believing that it was “none of their business”.

In response, Bupa has launched a new service, Bupa Stress Management, to help business owners to identify the symptoms of workplace stress, raise issues with staff, and design and implement their own stress management policy.

Dr Jenny Leeser, clinical director of OH at Bupa, said: “Nobody expects bosses to solve all of a person’s issues but there may be adjustments that really help, such as altering hours on a temporary basis.”

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