January 20, 2010

Two in three workers would hide mental illness
19/01/2010 – 15:43:16

Two thirds of workers would hide their mental illness from colleagues and employers, campaigners claimed today.

Startling figures from the Association for Higher Education Access & Disability (Ahead) also showed that one third of employees would not feel comfortable working with someone who had depression or an anxiety disorder.

Ann Heelan, Ahead executive director, said workers are afraid to tell colleagues about mental health problems.

“People are still afraid to approach their employers about mental health or stress related issues,” she said.

The survey of 300 workers across the country in past two weeks found:

* Almost four out of five people, 78%, believe there is a stigma around mental health issues at work.

* Some 45% of Irish workers know a colleague with a mental health issue.

A total of 36% of those surveyed said their employers would react unsympathetically if they complained about stress.

Ms Heelan claimed employers need to recognise mental well being in the work place is just as important to their business as physical illness.

According to the Small Firms Association, days off work due to stress remain one of the main reasons for absenteeism which costs Irish businesses €550m each year.

“Employees suffering from stress and anxiety disorders may begin to act erratically and productivity will decrease, this may lead to the employee facing disciplinary procedures or worse,” Ms Heelan said.

“Without the appropriate management policy in place employees may lose their job and their mental illness remains undetected.”

Amid the calls for increased mental health awareness Chris Andrews TD said that attitude to mental illness needs to change.

“We need to challenge these kinds of attitudes as the first step to reducing discrimination against people suffering from depression or going through other mental health difficulties,” Deputy Andrews said.

Patients who have benefited from mental health services will be meeting with TDs and Senators next week to tell them how to make the service better.