Employees reluctant to disclose mental ill-health

Attitudes to mental health have changed over time

Concerns remain about access to treatment

Many employees still feel uncomfortable talking to their employer about mental health, according to a national survey which highlights the progress still to be made in addressing stigma in the workplace.

Less than half (42%) of the 1,741 respondents to the annual Attitudes to Mental Illness survey said they would feel comfortable talking to an employer about their mental health, compared to 70% who would feel comfortable talking to friends and family.

The findings follow a recent survey by mental health charity Mind which found that one in five workers believe that if they mention their stress levels they will be put first in line for redundancy.

Overall, the Attitudes survey suggests that progress has been made in educating the public about mental illness. The percentage of people agreeing that "mental illness is an illness like any other" has increased from 71% in 1994 to 77% today. The vast majority (91%) believe that "virtually anyone can become mentally ill".

A quarter (26%) of people have worked or are working with someone with a mental health problem and 68% say they would be willing to do so. Seven in ten (72%) people believe that "people with mental health problems have the same rights to a job as anyone else", compared to 66% in 2003 when this question was first asked. Two-thirds believe that "most people with mental health problems want to have a paid job". Research from the Office for National Statistics shows that 35% of people with mental illness are unemployed but want to work, the highest want to work rate of any disability.

Despite the fact that 85% of the Attitudes survey respondents believe that people with mental illness experience stigma and discrimination, a significant number have reservations about entrusting those suffering from mental ill-health with certain responsibilities. Two in five people (21%) agree that "anyone with a history of mental illness should be excluded from taking public office". The same percentage believe that "as soon as a person shows signs of mental disturbance, he should be hospitalised".

In general, those aged over 55 had the most negative attitudes towards people with mental illness.

The survey also highlights concerns about the treatment of mental ill-health. A quarter (24%) of people agree that there are sufficient existing services for people with mental illness, although this has increased from 11% in 1994.




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