Most organisations say mental ill health is one of the three main causes of long term sickness absence according to a survey of more than 1,000 HR professionals.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development’s annual Health and Well-being at Work survey (previously badged as its Absence Management survey) also revealed a significant rise in the reporting of common mental health conditions. These include issues such as anxiety and depression with the reported figures rising from 41% when the last survey was conducted (in July 2016) to 55%.

In addition some 27%  also said that mental ill health was among the top three causes of short-term absence at their organisation.

The number of organisations witnessing an increase in stress-related absence also rose from 31% to 37%. And the main cause of stress? By some margin respondents cited workloads or volumes of work as the key factor, with 60% saying this was the trigger.


The causes of long-term absence


The research detailed the most common causes of long-term absence – when some one is off work for six months or more.

Topping the list are acute medical conditions (23%) which include things like  cancer, heart attacks and strokes. However, mental ill health was only a percentage point behind – accounting for over one-fifth of all long-term absences – as was stress.

Indeed the number of organisations reporting mental ill health as the primary cause of long-term absence has soared. In the previous survey the figure stood at 13%, but by November 2017, when the latest research was conducted, that had risen to 22%.

Some 19% of cases were attributed to musculoskeletal injuries.

The CIPD says its research chimes with that of a Government report published last year.  Thriving at Work: the Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers starkly portrayed the gravity of the situation. It authors bleakly reported “that the UK is facing a mental health challenge at work that is much larger than we thought.”

Working towards good mental health and wellbeing

Whilst the figures don’t make for good reading, there may be reasons why the reporting of mental health conditions have increased.

We are getting better at discussing our mental wellbeing – or otherwise. Across society we are seeing initiatives to encourage people to open up about their own mental health. Depression and anxiety are not the taboo topics they once were.

This may have meant that employees feel more able to report their own mental health issues . Employers are also more aware of the importance of providing support. The CIPD recorded a sizeable increase in the number of organisations that are increasing awareness of mental health issues across their workforces. In the last survey the number stood at fewer than a third, now it’s slightly more than half.

However, despite such progress, many of us still feel uncomfortable discussing our symptoms and concerns; talking about what’s going on in our heads.

It’s a point of which we at Towergate Health & Protection are well aware.

In recent weeks we announced our support for a new #insideyourmind campaign. This has been launched by the Ardonagh Community Trust, the charity vehicle of our parent company, The Ardonagh Group.

The aim is to encourage our own staff to share their mental health experiences. We want to start that conversation, to give our fellow employees the confidence to discuss things like workplace stress or the impact of a mental health diagnosis on themselves or a loved one.

#insideyourmind also forms part of our wider support for Mind, the mental health charity.

As well as raising issues, we want to raise money to support the practical help the charity provides to people dealing with a range of mental illnesses and conditions. With our Ardonagh partners we have set a target of £200,000.

We’re doing this because, as the CIPD research shows, this is a big issue. It’s also about a lot more than lost time at work, important as that is.  Good mental health is vital for all that we do. And every year one in four of us will suffer a mental health problem.

So let’s talk about it.





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