Why more attention must be given to mental health in the workplace
127 million hours of work were lost in 2015 due to mental health-related absences
Bosses must become more understanding of mental health issues among their workforce, says the new director-general of the Institute of Directors (IoD).
On a two-day visit to Nottingham and its regional office, Stephen Martin said he was making mental health a campaign to alert employers who should learn to spot mental health problems among their staff – and offer help.
Official statistics suggest 127 million hours of work were lost in 2015 due to mental health-related absences, the equivalent of around 75,000 individuals losing the entire working year.
“Mental health is clearly a major business issue,” said Mr Martin, who is championing issues having seen the effect on a close member of his own family.
“The IoD is raising the profile massively and a few weeks ago launched a big campaign with the BBC Breakfast programme broadcast live from our London office,” he said.
“Companies lose a lot of hours through people being away from work. We know about physical illnesses and we talk about it openly but mental illness is a taboo, people don’t want to talk about it, people are uncomfortable with it.
“At its extreme, people commit suicide because they can’t talk about their issues and that is a disgrace in this 21st Century, modern UK.
“We should be able to talk openly and freely about it. Everybody knows someone affected by mental illness – the statistics are quite high – and we owe it to sufferers to do something about it.”
The institute has drafted guidelines for its members who can find help when needed about how to offer support and guidance.
IoD is taking a mental health roadshow around the country.
“There is a lot of help out there such as Mental Health First Aid England,” added Mr Martin, who visited Nottingham Business School at Nottingham Trent University during his visit.
“We are helping directors and managers because it is a very difficult conversation for them to discuss with employees. If they don’t have the tools, the situation can be made worse. We have to tackle it now.”
Mr Martin said bosses need to learn to recognise symptoms, adding: “Ask how a potential sufferer is and show genuine interest in them.
“The danger currently is although we can see something is wrong, we are uncomfortable having a conversation.”
He said this can lead to discussions about how to help with the right kind of support, with the sufferer staying in work and contributing to society.
Mr Martin, who was brought up in Northern Ireland, is no stranger to health issues. He lost a sibling, aged two, from cancer and his father died young.
“At Clugston, my previous company where I was group chief executive, I tried to remove the taboo around discussing mental health by engaging in an open dialogue with all employees.
“I want to ensure that our culture at the IoD is also one in which we are all confident in speaking openly about mental health issues.”
Source Nottingham Post