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Time for change? Mental ill health is the leading cause of absence through illness in the work place, costing UK businesses an estimated £35 billion annually.

As I state on the Home page of my website, “For too long the importance of good mental health has been overlooked in the City. Stress, anxiety and depression in the workplace are not new, but there is now a growing recognition that people need support at all levels of an organisation and that they should be able to access this without fear of stigma.”

Having worked for 20 years in the corporate and not-for-profit sectors and for many of these years working for a large company with over 4,000 employees, I was all too aware of the increasing demands and stress on individuals without any understanding or support for the very real impact on people’s mental health.  This often resulted in increased anxiety, depression, panic attacks, procrastination and so on.

There is less stigma these days around mental health but still not enough is being done to talk openly about the very real struggles that many people will encounter at some point in their life and there is still a fear in the work place that mental health difficulties are being equated with not being capable enough to manage stress, a lacking in resilience or even a weakness.  Mental health issues are none of these things.  They are a normal response to difficult situations and experiences whether that is in the present or in the past, or in many cases, both.

It has been reported recently that mental ill health is the leading cause of absence through illness in the work place, costing UK businesses an estimated £35 billion annually.  This translates to around 127 million hours of work lost in 2015 due to mental health-related absence – equivalent to approximately 75,000 individuals losing the entire working year.

It is therefore disappointing and somewhat surprising that so few corporations and businesses are engaged in addressing this need in the workforce and little is being done to ensure that companies most important resource, their staff, are being supported appropriately with their mental health related difficulties.

On the plus side there is a slow but growing awareness of this need assisted by the visibility of the young Royals talking more openly about mental health issues and growing coverage in the media of this hidden issue.  The Royal Foundation in conjunction with Mind, has been developing the Heads Together Workplace Wellbeing Programme, which aims to deliver some of the help and support which they state has been recommended by the government-mandated report “Thriving at Work” (Stevenson/Farmer, October 2017).

Could your company being doing more? You can access further information via the following link about the work of and how your company can access information and set up better support for their staff: