Employee mental health is now a greater concern than physical illnesses for many UK companies

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Mental health issues are now a larger concern than physical ailments for many UK companies, and business people reported observing higher rates of mental illness compared to five years ago (Source: Getty)

Mental health is now a board-level priority for the majority of UK businesses, according to a new report by health insurance company Bupa.

It is an even bigger issue than physical illnesses for 29 per cent of businesses, and 41 per cent of senior decision makers said they have witnessed more episodes of mental health issues compared to five years ago.

“Mental health is one of the biggest people issues that businesses — big and small — face today,” Alex Perry, the Bupa chief executive, said. “We know that businesses across the UK want to be able to help safeguard employees’ mental health.”

Read more: The City is coming together to end stigma around mental health

Around 743,000 UK employees took long-term absences for mental health reasons within the past year — it was the main reason that employees did not go to work — yet Bupa’s new report found that more than half the companies said they did not know how to support employees with the challenge.

The government found that poor mental health costs employers at least £33bn per year, and research by YouGov last year reported that 15 per cent of those who disclosed that they suffered from ill mental health in the UK faced dismissal, disciplinary action or demotion.

Yet research by Soma Analytics found that the most profitable FTSE firms addressed mental health in the workplace. So many advocacy groups, such as Business in the Community are advocating for greater workplace mental health awareness and training

“Getting an early diagnosis and being able to easily access treatment is key to improving someone's long term prognosis,” said Pablo Vandenabeele, Bupa’s mental health clinical director.

He also added that the risk of suffering from a mental health condition increases after the first episode.

Bupa’s survey was conducted with 400 UK human resources and directors, with 200 who represented large corporation and 200 who represented small and medium-sized enterprises.

Read more: From surviving to thriving: Why the mental health of your employees matters

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