Failure to tackle depression at work costs firms billions

Widespread discrimination, bullying and stigma prevent workers from seeking proper help

Workers feel unable to disclose mental health problems to colleagues or bosses because discrimination is rife and openness discouraged, according to research to be published tomorrow. As many as one in four workers have experienced discrimination or witnessed colleagues being discriminated against at work because they suffered from a mental health problem, according to a new survey by the charity Mind.

Experts say good communication in the workplace is essential if people are to open up about problems before spiralling into depression and anxiety.

Mental illness is the most common health problem to affect people of working age: one in six suffer from severe stress, depression or addiction at any one time. The financial effects alone are startling, with a cost to UK businesses of more than £26bn last year, according to the Centre for Mental Health (CMH).

Mind is campaigning to challenge stigma, bullying and inadequate support services. It wants to persuade employers that spotting staff struggling with stress and mental health problems and then providing the right support will save them billions in sick leave and poor productivity.

One in four workers said their bosses rarely or never asked them how they were. Less than half said their bosses regularly listened to their viewpoint, while two-thirds said they do not feel valued at work.

Amy Whitelock of Mind said: "Mental health problems remain the elephant in the room. Poor communication fuels the problem because if your boss or manager doesn't even ask how you are, how could you possibly approach them about anything more sensitive? There is still a culture of denial which means employees are afraid to speak out because they fear discrimination or being thought of as weak, and employers are afraid to broach the subject in case they make things worse."

Fear of being bullied or isolated means workers are more comfortable taking time off for physical ailments than depression or anxiety, according to Mind's survey of 2,006 people. This means thousands go to work every day despite feeling mentally under par, costing the economy £16bn a year in underperformance or "presenteeism", according to the CMH. Its new report, Managing Presenteeism, to be launched later this month, will show employers how to reduce the burden through early detection and better support for mental health problems.

Andy Bell, chief executive of the CMH, said: "The openness message must come from the top, but line managers and supervisors are key, as they are the ones who will first notice if someone isn't performing. Disclosure is incredibly difficult but the onus is clearly with the employers, and the business case is clear."

Case Study: Pippa, 32, high street bank cashier

Pippa (not her real name) has suffered from bouts of depression since the age of 17

"I didn't tell the bank about my depression in my job application because I knew they wouldn't give me the job. In my first few months, I did so well that I was awarded the 'rising star', but the expectations are unrealistic and, since being signed off for two weeks in January, I've been passed over for promotions.

"They monitor you to make sure you are smiling all the time, even when you're not with a customer – it makes you feel like a robot. Everyone knows the bank moves problem people to other branches, so I am scared to ask for support. My line manager pointed out how much I'd cost the company by taking time off.

"Officially they encourage you to tell them if you have a problem, but that's not how it works in reality. My manager is so cold, thick-skinned and unapproachable."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

    Maths Teacher

    £90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

    Maths Teacher

    £22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week