How employers can tackle the root causes of mental health issues in the workplace

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Reviewing the 2018 Mental Health at Work Report, it’s immediately apparent that the prevalence of mental health issues has now reached a crisis point in the UK. Nearly two-thirds of people (61%) have experienced a mental health issue due to work and one in three have been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition.

By any standard this is an epidemic and must be treated as such, with much more done to address the root causes of the problem.

What’s driving the mental health crisis?

When it comes to the factors driving the mental health epidemic, this year’s data highlights the impact that financial insecurity is having. A quarter of employees say they are struggling to make ends meet and one in eight people (12%) believe it likely that they could lose their job in the next 12 months.

Two-thirds of employees say that their mental health and wellbeing is affected by their personal job security (66%). With 90% of people in their 20s saying their mental health is affected by the cost of living.

Minority stress is also affecting some individuals, with 81% of LGBT+ people experiencing a mental health condition and 46% having been formally diagnosed, compared to 33% of non-LGBT+ people.

At the same time, although 85% of managers now acknowledge that employee wellbeing is their responsibility, 64% say they have had to put the interests of their organisation above the wellbeing of their people.

This means that instead of enabling people to work in ways that allow them to thrive – with reasonable demands being placed upon them, control over their workload and supportive management in place – unhealthy working conditions are being allowed to fester. Conditions that also allow toxic blame cultures, bullying and sexual harassment to go unaddressed.

So long as this continues, disjointed wellbeing initiatives or half-hearted attempts to treat those affected are no longer enough. There is a saying that when a flower doesn’t bloom, you need to fix the environment, not the flower.

This isn’t about documenting what should happen, but getting managers and c-level executives to lead by example to create genuine culture change. As well as addressing the underlying dimensions of wellbeing, such as financial wellbeing, that influence our residual stress and anxiety levels.

For more insights on how you can resolve the underlying factors driving the prevalence of mental health issues in your organisation, download "Solving the Mental Health Epidemic", our free guide to tackling the root causes of the mental health crisis.


1Mental Health at Work 2018 Report, BiTC. The 2018 Mental Health at Work report is drawn from the findings of the National Employee Mental Wellbeing Survey sponsored by Mercer and undertaken by YouGov. The survey of over 4,000 people was conducted by YouGov and led by Business in the Community, the Prince’s Responsible Business Network. It is a three-year collaborative project supported by strategic partners The Institute of Leadership and Management, Mental Health at Work, Mental Health First Aid England, Mind and The Work Foundation.

Wolfgang Seidl
by Wolfgang Seidl

EMEA Health Management Leader, Mercer Marsh Benefits

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