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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

 

The role of the health and care team in helping patients and employers to overcome stigma and discrimination in the workplace


One clear barrier to access to work for people with mental health problems is the stigma and discrimination that they may experience in the workplace.  The stigma and misconceptions about mental ill-health mean that employees find talking about their mental health difficult to the point that many will avoid raising the issue with their employer for fear of losing their job.  A recent study quoted in the Centre for Mental Health Briefing on the facts about mental health and employment, found that almost 45% of people with physical health problems experienced mild to moderate depression, but were more worried about telling their employer about their mental health issues than about their cancer or heart disease.  The Rethink survey found that almost 60% of British workers said they would feel uncomfortable talking to their line manager if they had a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.

 

One of the consequences of the stigma around mental ill-health is that people with a mental health condition go to work when they are not able to perform at their best.  This is known as ‘presenteeism’ and there is evidence that this increases in a recession.  The 11th annual survey by Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) of almost 600 organisations shows that presenteeism and reported mental health conditions have increased as a result of the recession.  CIPD point out that ‘Failure by organisations to address employees’ concerns may lead to mental health problems and costly longer-term consequences.’

 

Realising Ambitions, the Perkins review of employment support stresses the importance of health and welfare to work services working in an integrated way to dispel myths around employment, work and mental health.  It also signals the role that occupational health services could play as advocates for ensuring that recruitment and in work support procedures do not discriminate against people with mental health conditions. 

 

Links to resources:


Removing the barriers: The facts about mental health and employment
Briefing 40, Centre for Mental Health, August 2009
This briefing looks at the barriers to employment for people with both common and severe mental health problems and at the initiatives that are being undertaken by the public, voluntary and commercial sectors to support their efforts to find and sustain work.  Stigma and discrimination in the workplace is one of the major barriers to employment reviewed in the briefing. 

 

Rethink

Scores of British adults avoid talking to their boss about mental health problems out of fear of losing their job or being considered “mad”, new findings suggest.

Rethink is a mental health membership charity which works to help everyone affected by severe mental illness to recover a better quality of life.  It carried out a survey which found that almost 60% of British workers said they would feel uncomfortable talking to their line manager if they had a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.

 

Time to Change - Let’s end mental health discrimination

Time to Change is an ambitious programme to end discrimination faced by people who experience mental health problems.  It is run by the mental health charities, MIND and Rethink.  The website includes blogs on topics such as employment issues.  This blog gives an insight into the challenges of finding and staying in work with a mental health condition.

The working in partnership section of the website includes ideas, resources and case studies of how health and care professionals can challenge discrimination in the workplace. 

 

Mental health and employment

Roy Sainsbury, Annie Irvine,Jane Aston,Sally Wilson,Ceri Williams and Alice Sinclair, 2008

Department for Work and Pensions, Research Report No. 513

This report summarises research carried out by the Social Policy Research Unit and Institute for Employment Studies University of York on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.  It found that there was a perception among employees that employers viewed people with mental health conditions as a ‘risk’ or as unreliable or incapable of coping in their job, and this was a factor in some people’s reluctance to mention a mental health condition to their current, or a potential future, employer.

 

Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD)

Annual Survey Report 2010, Absence Management

This report of the 11th annual survey carried out among 573 organisations.  The report provides benchmarking data for organisations on absence levels and the cost and causes of absence.  This year there are topical sections about employee wellbeing and the effect of the economic climate on absence. 

 

Realising ambitions: Better employment support for people with a mental health condition

Rachel Perkins, Paul Farmer and Paul Litchfield

Department for Work and Pensions, December 2009

This review was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to look at mental health and employment and to identify how Government could help people with mental health conditions fulfil their employment ambitions.  Chapter 4 of the report sets out practical steps that health and welfare to work services can take to support people with a mental health condition.  These include identifying ‘link workers’ in each agency (e.g. Disability Employment Advisers in Jobcentre Plus and employment specialists in health and social services), joint seminars and training sessions as well as exchange placements. 

The report also notes the paucity of occupational health service provision in UK workplaces with just 34% of mainly public sector and large private sector companies having access to such services.  Nevertheless occupational health service providers can help to ensure that recruitment procedures do not discriminate against people with mental health conditions. 

 

 

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Working together to support people recovering from mental ill health at work

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