Despite many organisations now offering mental health support and improving their communications on the subject, RedArc Nurses has found there are still barriers that remain in place that cause employees to either delay seeking help or, in some cases, prevent any support being sought at all.
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says: “We speak to people from all walks of life and from all backgrounds, and we’ve found that there are a significant number of factors that organisations need to address with their employees in order for their mental health support to achieve its full potential.”
- Confidentiality: a worry that anything the individual shares with a third party, be that an insurer, EAP (Employee Assistance Programme), or mental health worker, will eventually be shared with their employer’s HR department.
- Privacy: an uneasiness about making private phone calls within an office environment, for example to a GP or insurer; or that colleagues may find out if they have to attend appointments within office hours.
- Promotions: a concern that the individual will be overlooked for future promotions which would cause embarrassment and frustration.
- Remuneration: Linked to the above, a worry that pay rises and bonuses could be withheld due to a mental health condition, which in turn can add to financial stress.
- Suitability for their role: the individual can believe their employer may feel they are unsuitable to continue in their current role – especially if they are required to drive, carry firearms, use heavy machinery, or be particularly sensitive to others’ situations.
- Split persona: a requirement perceived by the employee that they should leave their problems at the office door and split off their home persona from their work persona.
- Letting down family: the view that by giving in to a mental health issue, they are letting down their family.
- Cost: despite being told that mental health support is offered by their employer, some employees are suspicious that there will be associated costs further down the line – especially if private face-to-face support is recommended.
- Seriousness of condition: some employees believe they don’t need support unless they have extreme symptoms, and can also be worried about opening a can of worms.
Christine Husbands concluded: “It’s really important to remember that just because we as an industry are making lots of noise about breaking down the taboos of mental health, employees might not feel the same. Millennials may have grown up in a world where they often feel happier to talk about their feelings but the same doesn’t necessarily apply to other generations, different personalities or within specific industries.
“The communication of mental health support needs to not only say ‘we offer it and here’s how to access it’ but it also needs to address these very genuine concerns of real employees. Any mental health condition that is left to fester will ultimately take longer to heal which is then more challenging for both the employee and employer.
“We need to take a pro-active stance and tell employees that there should not be any fear around talking or acting upon mental health issues, and debunk some of these concerns and myths.”