Stress on the up after economic downturn

The UK may be coming out of recession, but it has left in its wake a workforce that is increasingly at risk of mental ill health, with rising rates of anxiety and stress, and the biggest increase of anti-depressant prescriptions on record, according to a mental health charity.

Mind launched a five-year campaign – Taking Care of Business – last month to highlight mental ill health in the workplace and, in particular, the toll that the recession is taking on workers’ health and wellbeing.

A poll of more than 2,000 people to coincide with the launch concluded that one in 10 had visited their GP for support, 7% had started a course of medical treatment for depression, 5% had seen a counsellor, and half felt morale in their workplace was low.

More than a quarter were working longer hours, and a third complained about having to compete against each other. And the number of prescriptions for anti-depressants increased by three million to 39.1 million between 2008-09, said Mind.

Half of the respondents were unhappy about their work-life balance, one in three felt overworked, two-thirds felt anxious on a Sunday night about the coming week, and fewer than four in 10 felt their employer was doing enough to support them.

The charity is calling on businesses to make addressing mental ill health a corporate priority, and to recognise that all of their staff are vulnerable to developing mental health problems and need to be well-supported. It is also urging employers to do more to tackle mental health stigma at work, and to encourage a culture where employees can discuss stress and mental distress openly without fear of the consequences.

At a practical level, it has recommended businesses introduce workplace mental health policies that promote wellbeing for all staff, tackle work-related mental health problems, and support staff who are experiencing mental distress.

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said: “Every workplace employs staff with mental health problems, but in many businesses a culture of denial exists. Ignoring distress and putting on a brave face won’t make it go away, it will just make things worse.

“Managing mental health properly helps keep staff in work, improves performance, and saves money in the long run.”

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