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Nine in 10 employees affected by mental health issues

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Nine in 10 (90%) UK workers have experienced mental health challenges, according to research by Accenture, suggesting a more widespread issue than thought

Two-thirds (66%) reported having personally experienced mental health challenges, while 85% said someone close to them such as a family member, close friend or colleague had experienced them.

For three out of four people (76%) mental health challenges had affected their ability to enjoy life. A further 30% said they are ‘occasionally, rarely, or never’ able to enjoy and take part fully in everyday life.

Barbara Harvey, a managing director at Accenture and mental health lead for the UK business, said that the results showed mental health problems are more prominent than previously thought: “We’re used to hearing that one in four people experience mental health challenges, yet our research shows that the number of people affected is in fact far higher. It’s clear that mental health is not a minority issue; it touches almost all employees and can affect their ability to perform at work and live life to the fullest,” she said.

The findings revealed that people are beginning to feel more comfortable discussing mental health, with 82% of respondents saying they are more willing to speak openly about mental health issues now than they were a few years ago.

However, just one in four respondents (27%) said they had seen any positive change in employees speaking openly about mental health in their organisations. Only one in five (20%) reported an improvement in workplace training to help manage their own mental health, or to help them support colleagues dealing with mental health challenges (19%).

Of those who had experienced a mental health issue, 61% had not spoken about it to anyone at work. Fifty-one per cent of respondents felt that raising a concern about their mental health might negatively affect their career or prevent them from being promoted, and 53% believed that opening up about a mental health challenge at work would be perceived as a sign of weakness.

Yet hiding mental health challenges at work had a negative impact on the majority of those surveyed. More than half (57%) reported at least one such impact; including feeling stressed, more alone, lacking confidence, being less productive, or simply ‘feeling worse’.

Among those who had talked to someone about mental health at work, four in five (81%) experienced a positive reaction of empathy or kindness. Overall, employees who reported that their organisation has a supportive open culture around mental health saw reductions in stress levels, a decrease in their feelings of isolation, and an increase in confidence, according to Accenture.

Nearly half (44%) said it was 'a relief' to be able to open up, and nearly a third (31%) said it helped them take positive steps towards getting help. In supportive cultures employees are more likely to know how to get help (89% versus 62%) and to find it easy to talk about mental health (86% versus 60%), the report found.

Harvey added that employers must focus on spotting the signs of deteriorating mental health: “It’s time for employers to think differently about how they support their employees’ mental wellbeing. It’s not only about spotting the signs of declining mental health and helping employees seek treatment when needed.

“Employers need to take a proactive approach by creating an open supportive work environment that enables all their people to look after their mental health and support their colleagues. The payoff is a healthier happier organisation where people feel energised and inspired to perform at their best.”

The survey comes as it was announced that several businesses, including WHSmith, Mace, Channel 4, and Ford, have urged the government to do more on mental health through giving it the same weight as physical health in the workplace.

Commissioned by Accenture Research and conducted in October 2018 through the YouGov Omnibus service, the online survey covered 2,170 employees in a representative sample of the UK working population.