Mental health is estimated to cost the UK economy £37 billion a year, according to a study.
People with mild to moderate mental illness, such as anxiety or depression, are twice as likely to be unemployed, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Jelf Employee Benefits believes that we need to work much harder at improving and developing a more open culture, where addressing mental health issues is seen as a positive.
The organisation says that employees are fearful of going to their GP thinking their health record will be marked, and the situation made public at some point in the future.
Going to their employer who might listen but just see them as a problem is also a concern.
Another fear is an EAP counsellor contacting employer with details about their situation.
Jelf believes that greater awareness of the role that GPs play, and a positive approach to dealing with mental health in the workplace is the way forward.
Matthew Judge, technical director for Jelf says that stress remains one of the biggest causes of absence, and this is backed up by what the organisation sees in practice.
He adds that, in general, those companies that offer fewer benefits to their employees are more likely to suffer from higher absence rates, and that those companies that have healthcare and protection policies in place to look after their staff, coupled with a Financial Education programme, are better placed to offer support.
‘Most importantly, those employers that actively encourage utilisation of those benefits, and engender a culture of support, are those that suffer less with employees absent from stress, he adds.
‘Stress can be difficult to identify but when it’s one of the biggest causes of absence it cannot be ignored.
‘April’s Stress Awareness month is a great time for employers to look again at their health and protection policies and make sure they’re making full use of all the support available and their staff know about it.’
Further reading about employee health
See also: Mental health a workplace taboo