More than eight out of 10 employees who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition have not confided in their employer about the problem, according to new research.
This study of almost 4,000 employees, across four countries (UK, the US, Canada and Australia) shows the magnitude of under reporting of mental health conditions in the workplace.
The report — by virtual care company Teladoc Health — found that 82 per cent of employees have kept mental health difficulties hidden from their manager; around 38 per cent of those said this was because they feared it would have a negative impact on their career.
Other problems cited included worry about others’ opinion (cited by 22 per cent); 21 per cent said they felt embarrassed about the condition, while 17 per cent worried this would lead to their capability at work being questioned.
More worryingly, one in 10 believed that confiding in someone at work about poor mental health could lead to them losing their job.
In total four out of 10 employees (40 per cent) have given a false reason for time taken off due to mental health problems.
The survey also found younger employees report poorer mental health than older age groups across all categories.
Teladoc Health says that this survey showed that a reluctance to discuss mental health in the workplace was having a marked effect: both on employees’ health and the employers’ bottom line.
The survey also showed 55 per cent of those surveyed said more should be done in the workplace to improve mental health, with more than a third (38 per cent) saying they would be more productive at work if there was better support for these issues.
Crucially, employees want a more frank and transparent approach in their workplace, with 50 per cent agreeing that when executives talk openly about their mental health at work, it encourages them to feel more comfortable about their own mental health.
Furthermore, nearly half of employees (45 per cent) say they would be more likely to seek mental health support when they need it if there were to be more open conversations in their workplace on this topic.
Teladoc Health chief executive Jason Gorevic says: “We’ve seen it first-hand with our own global workforce; employees want leaders to set the dialogue in motion around mental health and normalise the conversation.
“For employers and employees alike, there is substantial health and economic value in getting individuals the right diagnosis, action plan and support needed to be well and productive in life and at work.”
Menninger Clinic professor of psychiatry Dr John Oldham adds: “While society is generally promoting the conversation about mental health, the data show that employees don’t want to and don’t know how to talk about it at work. Not surprisingly, stigma is the biggest obstacle in obtaining help for mental health problems.”
“The belief is pervasive and persistent that raising your hand for help with problems — be it depression, bipolar, post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues — will only be career limiting.”
Gorevic adds: “Our study confirms that stigma surrounding mental health not only exists in the workplace but is deeply rooted.
“Virtual care can deliver employees the needed support on their terms, filling a critical gap in access to mental healthcare services for whatever issue an individual may be struggling with.”