Mental health: why can’t employees speak out?

THREE quarters of employees in the legal profession are uncomfortable speaking out about mental health issues. That’s according to a new survey, which asked senior business decision makers in the legal profession, whether employees at their organisation felt able to talk about their mental health.

The YouGov study, commissioned by jobs board totaljobs, found that 40% of senior business decision makers in the legal profession are aware of employees at their current organisation suffering from a mental health issue. It also says that over a fifth were aware of employees who have had to leave their job because of their mental health.

Despite high numbers of staff suffering from mental health issues, just a quarter of the senior business decision makers believe that their employees feel comfortable speaking about it with them. A further 27% say there is a greater ‘stigma’ towards mental health conditions than physical ones in the workplace.

Many employers offer health and well-being services to their staff, to help support their general welfare in the workplace. Of those surveyed, the most likely service offered was flexible working hours (51%), followed by the provision of quiet areas inside the workplace (35%) and staff surveys to ensure employees are not struggling at work (26%) and exercise classes (24%).

Nina Fryer, Senior Lecturer in Health and Nutrition at Leeds Trinity University has recently evaluated the effects of the stigma of mental health in the workplace.

Fryer says: “One of the largest barriers to people seeking support with mental health issues in the workplace is the stigma that they feel is associated with it. It is important to introduce discussions about mental health and positive wellbeing into appraisals. Offering training to managers in how to initiate and follow up conversations about mental health, provides a pathway for employees who are suffering to take action.”

The study also showed that only six per cent of the senior business decision makers believe they are given enough support and advice regarding how to deal with mental health issues in the workplace.

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