This doesn’t surprise me, and I’m sure the numbers in the US would be similar, maybe even lower.
Just 17 percent of UK managers feel “very confident” in ability to support colleagues experiencing mental health issues. A shocking proportion of managers in the UK workforce have never received training to equip them with the skills needed to spot mental health issues.
I was thinking about something similar to this the other day. The typical response to mental health issues, stress, anxiety, etc. is to point employees to the Employee Assistance Program. (EAP). While these programs are often a great resource, it seems a bit counter-intuitive to have an employee dealing with a health issue, and to completely dissociate the workplace from it. The response very much sends the message that the workplace is not the place to discuss these issues, that no one here wants to hear it, but here we have a resource for you, out there.
Granted, some of that is a by-product of US privacy rules in regards to employee health information, and that’s a fair concern. But I can’t help but wonder if the employee would be better served if the EAP could work alongside their manager and HR representative to put together a plan that allows for whatever assistance is deemed necessary along with some supportive changes that would allow them to also keep working. I can see how that would actually contribute to stigmatizing mental health issues even more, not less.
After all, as much time as we all spend working, we surely understand that the things that happen in the workplace play a huge part in our mental health. Why then would we completely disregard the workplace when it comes to assisting someone? Why is the response an encouragement to call the EAP number, and then work continues on as if nothing is happening at all. Could it be because management has given zero thought to mental health training?
Managing people is all about leading people, and leading people properly requires you to care about them, and their mental well-being. That might be messy at times, but people are messy.
You employ human beings, mess and all. If you’re not willing to do more than give them a phone number to call, I’m not sure you can say you care about them as much as you care about what they do for you.
What do you think? Would you even want to talk about mental health struggles at work? I’m not exactly sure if I would, but there are a lot of reasons for that above and beyond the stigma associated with it. In the legal industry, though, I’d be foolish to think that stigma doesn’t play a huge role in why I, and many others, feel that way. Sadly, as long as mental health issues remain this large unknown to management, that stigma probably isn’t going anywhere.