Blue Monday is here. Cue the grey stormy rain cloud overhead and a sea of frowning faces.
Blue Monday is ‘officially’ the most depressing day of the year, a pseudo fact hyped up by the media every year since its creation. On this day we’re meant to feel our lowest, most-depressed state with the festivities gone and the cold, dark reality of January setting in.
In reality Blue Monday was created by Dr Cliff Arnell as part of a PR campaign for travel company Sky Travel. The date is typically the second or third Monday in January, but it is claimed to have been worked out from a formula which includes factors such as: weather, debt (and our ability to pay it), low motivation and more.
It’s not all bad news however, because Blue Monday highlights one important thing: it shines a light on mental illness. Mental health and wellbeing should be considered all year round, but it’s great that we can help push a positive agenda forward on such a seemingly gloomy day.
In the UK we’re experiencing less stigma and more openness when it comes to mental health, which is a positive development, and yet we’re still seeing an increase in mental health issues. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people will suffer from some kind of mental health issue each year (NHS). According to Mind, anxiety and depression are the most common issues throughout the UK, with stress and financial concerns being stated as the biggest triggers.
Mental health issues are not forgotten when the employee enters the workplace. According to Beneden’s latest mental health report, over half of employees surveyed (55.3%) have said that their job has become more stressful in the last 5 years. Coupled with over 70% of employees stating that they have suffered from an illness related to mental health. This means every employer is likely to feel the impact.
Despite this, only 43.8% of employees said that they knew a colleague who has suffered from a mental health issue. Showing us the topic of mental health is still not openly discussed within the workplace.
Worryingly some employers are lagging behind wider cultural progression when it comes to mental health. This is evidenced by the fact that that only 8.8% of employees say that they would confide in their employers if they were suffering from a mental health issue (Unum & mentalhealth.org). Furthermore, 1 in 3 employees state that they would not confide with anyone at work if they were suffering from a mental health illness.
More shockingly, research conducted by Business in the Community found that 10% of people who have spoken to their employer about their mental health illness have stated that they felt ‘pushed out’ or worse; were fired from their jobs.
The lack of guidance on mental health procedures in some workplaces is clear; 53% of people have stated that they are not aware of, or, do not have a mental health policy within their workplace (Beneden). Instead, a basic tick box culture has manifested in place of genuine support. Proving there is still much work employers can undertake to create a more positive and open attitude to mental health.
With a lack of clarity on how employers handle mental health issues many employees can be left feeling as though they don’t have the support they need. Even though employers feel as though they have ‘ticked’ the mental health box.
The lack of understanding and support for mental health is having a serious detrimental effect on UK businesses and productivity. More than 1 in 5 people admit to calling in sick when dealing with mental health issues, resulting in a loss of 15.6 million working days in the UK in 2016 to mental illness alone (NHS). Seriously impacting on UK productivity levels and costing UK business an estimated £35bn in 2016 (Centre for Mental Health).
Businesses could face further problems such as poor talent retention, with over a quarter of people having said that they would consider resigning from their jobs due to stress and workplace-related mental illness (Unum & mentalhealth.org).
Many employees are simply looking for their employers to simply listen to them. Over half (51.8%) would like their employers to offer help and support when they discuss a mental health illnesses with their employer.
There is a lot that a positive mental health outlook can achieve for organisations. Employee retention, productivity and satisfaction all benefit largely from more supportive cultures and improved services. With up to 70% of employees having stated the willingness to use mental health resources and over 80% stating that it would be helpful if their employer provided mental health awareness training to line managers (Beneden).
With Blue Monday at the centre of most people’s attention, employers have the opportunity to develop open and supportive cultures that encourage their people to talk about mental health concerns.
Here are a few resources that can help you to develop your mental health policy:
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