Stress in the City: Let’s move beyond stigmas

Christian May
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Nearly 80 per cent of UK workers have experienced poor mental health
Nearly 80 per cent of UK workers have experienced poor mental health (Source: Getty)

Nearly 80 per cent of City A.M. readers have experienced poor mental health. If you look around your train carriage this morning at your fellow commuters, that should become a sobering statistic. In truth, it’s not our readers that have been surveyed, but employees across the UK.

The charity Business in the Community conducted a huge study of employee and employer attitudes towards mental health and the findings have been released today. YouGov surveyed 20,000 people in work across the UK and found that 77 per cent of employees say they have experienced some kind of mental health problem, with 62 per cent identifying their work as a contributing factor.

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Very few such individuals will choose to disclose their suffering to a manager, but of those who do a shocking 56 per cent say their employer took no mitigating action at all. When we talk about physical health we refer to a vast range of conditions and concerns, and the same is true of mental health. Deeply serious and complex afflictions may be found at one end of the spectrum but we’re also talking about mild depression, anxiety and addiction – all of which are, frankly, more common in the City than most people would like to admit. Mental health practitioners in the City are seeing more and more patients for depression and anxiety, particularly among the young.

Indeed, the BiTC study found that younger workers are considerably more likely to experience mental health problems than their older colleagues and yet much less likely to tell a manager or employer.

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This cannot continue. Great work is being done by large employers and groups such as the City Mental Health Alliance, and it’s true that the business community now understands mental health as an issue much more clearly than even a few years ago.

And yet, despite 97 per cent of managers considering themselves approachable and open to discussing the topic, too few feel able to talk openly at work and so too many suffer in silence.

There is a fear of the ‘stigma’ and a fear that employers won’t know how to respond. That latter concern is not without justification but given the statistics released today it’s high time that we all moved beyond talk of stigmas and talked instead about how to normalise the conversation.

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