Staff still feel uncomfortable about discussing mental health and absence with line managers

mental health issues

Despite a shift towards a greater discussion of mental health issues, it seems that a stigma still exists in the workplace.

More than half of employees who have taken time off work due to mental health issues say that they feel uncomfortable speaking to their line manager about the reason for their absence, according to research from Westfield Health.

Worryingly, the survey revealed that over a fifth (21%) of UK staff feel that admitting the real reason for their absence would have a negative effect on their career – while a similar figure said they would find it easier to give a different reason as a reason for their absence.

Much of this attitude seems to come down to line manager attitudes and relationships with their employees.

Calling for more open conversations in the workplace, Westfield says the research shows that around 30% of employees don’t have a close enough relationship with their manager to discuss mental health issues.

More than a third (34%) feel their line managers are more concerned about getting them back to work than supporting them with managing their illness, and 32% worried that they are treated differently when they return to work having given mental health as a reason for absence.

Commenting on the survey results, Westfield Health’s executive director, David Capper, said: “Mental illness is a fact of life and can affect anyone at any time. However, there is still a stigma surrounding it which results in this unacceptable silence in the workplace.

“Without open, honest conversations in organisations, many employers might think they provide a good support package for employee illness, but actually it’s failing to address one of the most common problems.

“Simple steps can be taken to support colleagues whose mental health is under strain and to create a culture where employees feel safe to talk openly without facing any kind of discrimination.

“Mental health should be treated the same way as physical health, but this can only begin by tackling the silence with honest conversations.”