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    Half of managers think workers with mental health issues are a ‘liability’

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    A study of British senior managers found that 51 percent admit that they consider a worker who is mentally unwell to be a liability, with 65 percent saying they thought talking about mental health at work was a sign of weakness.

    A fifth admit they have felt in the past that a member of staff who claimed to be mentally unwell was only saying so because they weren’t good at their job, 21 percent that they were using it as an excuse to explain away poor work, and a quarter because they wanted time off work.

    And 17 percent had thought that the worker in question wasn’t mentally unwell, just lazy.

    This is reflected in the attitudes of workers themselves, according to the study, as a whopping 67 percent of Brits have suffered mental health issues that affected them at work – but only 35 percent felt supported by their employers.

    In fact, more than half (52 percent) of Brits believe that managers and bosses are not sympathetic to people who suffer from mental health issues.

    And 68 percent of them believe that, if they told their boss they were suffering from some kind of mental health issue it would have a negative impact on their job.

    And bosses agree, with a staggering 84 percent of senior managers saying that employees risk missing out on promotions if they admit to having mental health issues to their bosses, and 91 percent admitting there was still a lot of stigma around mental health in the workplace.

    The study, by TalkOut, found that one in ten (11 percent) senior managers confess that an employee talking to them about their mental health would make them feel uncomfortable.

    And only 42 percent of senior managers had been trained on how to talk to staff about mental health issues.

    Jill Mead, Co-Founder and Managing Director of TalkOut, said: “The findings from our research are really quite shocking and clearly demonstrate that not enough is being done within the workplace to reduce the long-standing stigma and discrimination around mental health.

    “If we’re going to make any progress, mental health needs to stop being seen as a taboo, particularly in professional environments, and there needs to be an understanding and acknowledgement that people with mental health conditions can often thrive at work with the right support.

    “HR managers and business leaders must take responsibility of ensuring their organisation has a mentally healthy environment where people can talk about mental health in the same way they talk about physical health without fear of consequences.”

    The study, of 2,000 British workers and 200 senior managers, found that almost two thirds (63 percent) of senior managers said they did not have enough resources to support employees with mental health issues. And 53 percent said they did not have procedures in place to help staff who were suffering from mental ill health.

    In fact, 82 percent of senior managers admitted that, in the past, their industry had failed workers with mental health issues, and only three in 10 (31 percent) said that mental health was currently taken seriously in their companies. 

    Yet 96 percent said they thought their staff’s mental health was as important as their physical health, and 94 percent believe a mentally healthy workforce is a more productive one.

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    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien