Staff afraid to disclose mental health issues


Two-thirds of Irish people would not tell their employer about a mental health issue, according to new research published today.

The online survey of about 300 people which was commissioned on behalf of the Association for Higher Education Access & Disability (Ahead), shows that 63 per cent of respondents would not disclose that they have mental health problems.

The research also reveals that some 78 per cent of employees believe there is a stigma around mental health issues in the workplace, even though almost half of those surveyed said they knew a colleague who had experienced mental health problems.

Not disclosing mental health issues to an employer would seem the sensible thing to do given that 35 per cent of Irish people who responded to the survey said they would personally feel uncomfortable employing someone if they knew that person had mental health problems such as depression.

Some 31 per cent of respondents said their employers have guidelines in place to manage stress in the workplace, while 36 per claimed their bosses would react unsympathetically if they complained about stress.

Furthermore, 56 per cent of those surveyed said that their job was stressful and 20 per cent described their job as being "very stressful".

The Ahead study also shows that almost a third of those surveyed believed they did not have a suitable work/life balance.

This figure rose to 40 per cent for people living outside Dublin in Leinster, while for people in Munster just one in five individuals expressed concern about how much their working life impacted on the rest of their lives.

The research was published to coincide with the Ahead conference on mental wellbeing in the workplace which takes place tomorrow in Dublin Castle.

Commenting on the report's finding's, Ahead executive director Ann Heelan said employers must do more to recognise that the mental wellbeing of staff is as important an issue as physical health.

Elsewhere, TDs and Senators from all parties have today united to mark Depression Awareness Week by challenging attitudes to people with mental health problems.

Deputy Chris Andrews, co-convenor of the Cross Party Oireachtas Group on Mental Health, said that more needed to be done to challenge attitudes towards mental health issues in Ireland.

“Research shows half of us believe that people with mental health problems shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else and should be barred from certain jobs.

“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," he added.

The Cross Party Oireachtas Group is to hold a meeting in Leinster House next week where a panel of mental health service users is expected to tell politicians the changes they believe are needed in our health service.