Putting on a brave face
Posted Wednesday 3 November 2010
This year’s National Stress Awareness Day is a good time to reflect on the state of the nation in terms of mental wellbeing at work. For those lucky enough to have a job, the picture looks pretty bleak. Recently we’ve seen a tranche of media stories about the increasing levels of stress among employees. Small wonder, given the multiple pressures people are facing as a result of the recession – money worries, fears about job security, spending cuts to name a few – which pile in on top of the existing causes of stress from inside and outside the workplace.
Last Monday, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reported that stress is now the biggest cause of long-term absence among public sector workers – and with the 500,000 job losses still to come it’s only set to get worse. In the same week, the TUC revealed that stress is now the most common health and safety problem in the workplace, with 62 per cent saying stress was in the top five of problems and one in four people naming stress as the top problem at work.
These surveys echo Mind’s findings, released earlier this year, which found that since the recession 1 in 10 workers have sought support from their doctors and 7 per cent have started taking antidepressants for stress and mental health problems caused by the pressures of recession on their workplace.
Yet for all these people struggling with stress at work, many more are struggling in silence. As research released by Mind today shows, people experiencing stress or mental distress feel unable to tell the truth to their employers about why they are off sick. It’s not just stress caused by work that’s the problem, or even the prevalence of mental distress in the workplace. People with a range of mental health problems are struggling on in silence at work, feeling they need to put on a ‘brave face’ and failing to ask for support, for fear of discrimination – and even demotion or dismissal. There’s no doubt about it, mental health is still taboo in the workplace.
For mental wellbeing at work to become a reality, it is this stigma that now needs to be shattered. Through Taking care of business – and our joint Time to Challenge campaign with Rethink – that’s exactly what Mind will be doing in the coming months. But we need your help, whether you’re an employer, employee or campaigner. Sign up as a supporter here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Whitelock, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer
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