When Megan Smith told she suffered from depression, her manager encouraged her to apply for other jobs. “It was horrible – I felt really exposed,” she said soon after the news about her illness spread across the office like a wildfire. After a few anxious, unhappy months, she eventually quit her job.
The truth is, Megan is not the only one who is facing the blues at the workplace.
According to UK’s Government-commissioned report, nearly 300,000 people with a long-term mental health condition lose their jobs every year. This mental health condition costs the UK economy between €83bn and €111bn every year, with a cost of between €37bn and €47bn to employers annually, according to the reports.Taking these figures into consideration, it now becomes evident that mental health issues are not being adequately addressed in the workplace.
Paul Farmer, the co-author of Thriving At Work report, admitted that mental health is still a subject treated as a taboo at many workplaces.
On the other hand, Obamacare’s mental health coverage requirements briefly highlighted the importance of mental health. However, mental health issues are often left unspoken.
Why it’s important to discuss mental health?
Talking about common issues and challenges such as mental health should be taken normally. By talking about it, we can make it easier for each one of us to fix any problem we may be experiencing.
Mr Farmer, chief executive of a mental health charity organization called ‘Mind’, says: “Opportunities are often missed to prevent poor mental health and ensure that employees who may be struggling get the support they need.
“In many instances, employers simply don’t understand the crucial role they can play, or know where to go for advice and support.”
So why is still such a stigma attached to it?
It’s often seen that people find it difficult to understand things that they cannot see or explain. There’s a degree of mystery, which carries a lot of cultural baggage on what goes on in our mind that no longer applies to our body.
People who are suffering from any type of mental illness, often don’t fully understand what’s going on with them and start to experience a feeling of guilt that might even make them feel ashamed about their condition.
How to bring such issues up with your manager?
If you are one of them, then try having a more open relationship with your manager. Mental health issues are a spectrum that runs from thriving to severe problems and is, of course, subject to change.
Have you noticed how often we ask our colleagues “How are you doing today?” ? Experts strongly recommend individuals to give an honest answer, for instance, ‘Actually, I am not feeling so great at the moment’, rather than just the routine answer; ‘Fine, thanks’.
According to a review, 40 recommendations were made on how to support employees to remain at work, which included creating an online wellbeing portal and using digital technology to support workers in this gig economy.
More and more companies are being asked to include a Mental Health section in their annual reports. According to this review, only 11% of companies have embraced this suggestion so far.
The review says that employers should:
- Build a mental health plan at work
- Raise mental health awareness by making information and support systems accessible
- Encourage people for open conversations
- Provide good working environment and ensure employees develop a healthy work-life balance
- Hold regular discussions about health and well-being with their staff
- Routinely monitor employee’s mental health
Mrs. Theresa May points something very valuable which each one of us should ingrain it in our brain: “It is only by making this an everyday concern for everyone that we change the way we observe the mental illness, so that striving to improve your mental health – whether at work or at home – is seen as just as positive as improving our physical well-being.”
Hayley Smith is just one of those lucky people who receive, support from her employer that made her chronic depression more bearable.
After resigning her job, she started her own company. And now, after five years, she is employing others.
“In the long term, it’s given me an awareness of mental health,” she says. “And the awareness to make sure I was never going to make people feel the way I was made to feel.”
Sadly, not everyone is as lucky as Hayley Smith to get a second chance, as there are cases that people get lost in the darkness of their mental issues.