· News

Firms alienating young staff with lack of mental health support

?Young people entering the workplace feel let down by firms' attitudes to mental health, Business Disability Forum and YouthSight have found

The study of 1,000 16- to 24-year-olds revealed that while the vast majority had both a strong understanding of mental health and a desire to see it talked about more prominently, very few felt able to address the issue at their workplace or university.

This could have serious ramifications for employers, the report found, with 65% saying they would consider leaving if not supported at work.

As many as a third (33%) of university students and young graduates (under the age of 24) said they had either considered dropping out because of a lack of mental health support, or knew someone else who had considered leaving.

The study found that the vast majority (91%) of 16- to 24-year-olds, regardless of their work or educational status, saw mental health both as a topic that needs to be talked about more and that universities and employers need to take more seriously.

Many young people found that their desire for more openness and support was unfulfilled once they reached higher education or work. Sixty-three per cent of students or graduates said they would not be comfortable talking about their mental health at university or work with someone they didn’t know well.

Business Disability Forum cited the results as compelling evidence that more needs to be done to meet Generation Z’s expectations and to ensure appropriate support.

The not-for-profit made a number of suggestions, including offering all staff training on how to spot the signs of poor mental health, training for line managers on how to support their own mental health and that of others, and working to end stigma.

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, said that younger people are being let down by ongoing stigma and that organisations must review their policies around mental health.

“Add concerns over mental health support to the high debts incurred from university and a fluid job market, and you have an entire cohort who will readily walk away from organisations that do not actively support their mental health," she said.

“Our findings suggest that thousands of young people are already considering leaving their universities or workplaces over a lack of mental health support. Many more could follow if organisations do not approach mental health differently, with a potentially devastating impact on our future workforce.”

If young people do feel supported they tend to be more loyal towards their places of work, she added: “Other studies have suggested that Generation Z feel great loyalty to institutions that reflect their values and attitudes, so there are big rewards for employers and universities who get it right on mental health.”

Business Disability Forum and YouthSight’s survey polled 1,003 16- to 24-year-olds, 653 of whom were university students or graduates. The study was undertaken between 13 September and 20 September 2018.