One in four people will personally experience a mental ill-health condition in their life, but more than half are too embarrassed to tell their employer, government research has said.
The research by the Department for Work and Pensions said mental ill-health, stress, depression and anxiety were costing the UK 13 million lost working days a year, or £3bn.
Work and pensions minister Lord McKenzie and health minister Ivan Lewis jointly called on businesses to tackle the stigma attached to mental health conditions.
Their call coincided with the launch of a managers’ guide developed by Shift, the government’s programme to reduce stigma and discrimination directed towards people with mental health problems,containing advice on how to support their staff.
Lord McKenzie said: “Employers must recognise the need and benefit of facing up to their responsibility to support their staff, or face ever-increasing sick leave and loss of talent. Investment in this area makes a huge difference on many levels.”
The poll found that eight in 10 of the staff polled believed work could help people recover from mental illness, while three-quarters thought employers focused too much on what people with mental health conditions could not do, instead of what they could do.
Eight in 10 felt employers had a responsibility to provide care and support to staff with mental health conditions.
The poll came as research by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health argued GPs should do more to help people with depression keep their jobs and avoid keeping them off work sick for too long.
It argued GPs were too ready to sign people off sick, and did not spend enough time and effort supporting them back into work.
GPs needed to be encouraged through their contract to provide work-focused help for people signed off sick with depression, the Sainsbury centre argued. This would include the timely provision of proven psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, and referral to employment advisers where necessary.
Dr Bob Grove, Sainsbury Centre director of employment, said: “GPs have a pivotal role in helping people get their lives back, rather than leaving them facing years of poverty, isolation and ill health.”