The topic of mental health issues in the workplace is a recurring one. A slew of public awareness campaigns over the last few years has seen it enter mainstream conversation, with more people opening up about their experiences.

Talking about mental health in the workplace

Unfortunately it seems that this trend has yet to dominate the world of work, especially at higher levels. A study published by Bupa Global in 2018 found that 58% of business leaders say that working at their level makes it difficult to talk about mental health. It suggests that more than half of senior workers are keeping quiet about potentially troubling issues, just because they feel like they should. Where is the pressure for silence coming from?

Business leaders and mental health silence

It seems like it’s not just because they were keeping quiet anyway. 1 in 4 respondents said that they felt like there was less mental health support available to them since becoming more senior.

It seems there is an expectation from employees and employers alike that extra responsibility should mean extra resilience. In fact, a higher grade usually means more pressure.

“Business leaders are not immune to mental health challenges, and in some case can be especially vulnerable. Pressures that come with the job, such as frequent travel and being away from family, can be overwhelming. In addition there’s a worrying association between mental health and inability to lead, which makes the topic taboo.”

Patrick Watt, Corporate Director, Bupa Global

Realistically (and statistically) almost everyone will be affected by poor mental health at some point, so it seems incongruous to expect leaders not to be included.

Supporting the mental health needs of business

The Stevenson-Farmer Review (2017) estimates that poor mental health at work costs UK employers between £33 billion – £42 billion a year. Beyond the obviously human element of caring for your fellow people, a price tag like that means a support system is wise.

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