Mental health in the workplace

Last week, the Health and Safety Executive published its annual ill health and injury statistics for 2016/17. The HSE found that mental ill health was the leading cause of work-related illness, and necessitated significantly more time off work than any other cause.

The statistics show that 40% of work-related ill health cases - more than half a million workers - reported stress, depression or anxiety. That's almost 2% of the country's working population suffering with work-related mental health concerns.

44% of these individuals cited their workload as the main cause of their difficulties, while 14% cited lack of support, and 13% violence and bullying.

The picture is particularly severe in non-management professional roles, with welfare professionals and legal professionals reporting work-related stress, anxiety or depression at almost 4 times the rate of all occupational groups. Nurses and midwives report a 2.5 times greater rate; teachers 2 times, and business and administrative professionals 1.5 times the overall rate. (Interestingly, managers, directors and senior officials report a slightly lower rate than for all occupations).

As a mental health professional, I'm struck by the massive scale of the emotional and mental suffering that these statistics indicate.

I've not always been a counsellor though - in my previous career as a company manager, I was always concerned about the wellbeing of my colleagues, and I also had responsibility for the finances. These figures give some indication of the enormous impact of mental ill health on our companies and our economy.

Almost 50% of working days lost in the UK last year - 12.5 million days - related to stress, depression or anxiety. That approximates to a cost of roughly £5 billion to the UK economy in direct financial costs, plus an estimate of the human cost.

The full breakdown (no pun intended) of the HSE 2016/17 Annual Injury and Ill Health Statistics, is available here.

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