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Let’s Talk About: Mental Health Stats

It goes without saying that the pandemic has had a huge impact on our lives. While we start to return to some normality, it’s important to note that there’s expected to be a much longer tail of poor mental health issues well beyond the pandemic itself ending; sometimes referred to as the “shadow pandemic”.

A number of leading public health specialists took to the British Medical Journal in May 2020 to warn that “the mental health impact of the pandemic is expected to last much longer than the physical health impact.”

And their concerns aren’t unfounded. Following the SARS outbreak in 2003, which was also classified as a pandemic, albeit on a much smaller scale, there was a 30% increase in suicides in people over the age of 65.

We’ve taken a look at some of the key facts and figures you need to know.

The UK has been hit the hardest

Interesting data from YouGov, conducted with 21,000 participants over 16 countries, has found that the heaviest toll of mental health impact has been felt in the UK.

Almost two-thirds of all Britons (65%) reported that the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.

Image taken from YouGov

This is compounded with rising rates of mental health issues

Coupled with this is that many of the figures around mental health were already heading the wrong way pre-pandemic. Almost a third of Britons (30%) said that they suffer from a mental health issue.

Image taken from YouGov

Around 10% of the UK population were suffering from depression pre-pandemic. This has at least almost doubled during the Coronavirus crisis, with rates of depression sitting at 19% back in June 2020, as reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

There is widespread inequality in those who are affected

Not all those are equal when it comes to those who are most affected by the pandemic and the mental health toll that comes with it. The ONS has found that those in BAME groups are more likely to experience a “triple whammy of threats”, with mental health, income and life expectancy being impacted. 

It was found in April 2020 that 27% of people in black groups were finding it hard to cope financially, while this figure was just 10% in those from white backgrounds.

People aren’t seeking support

Half the battle with rising rates of mental health issues is that people aren’t getting the support that they need. 

There are many barriers causing this; not knowing how to ask for help, or where to find it. Long waiting times and cost are two other huge barriers to mental health support. For others, accessibility to the internet or video call software, or discomfort with using it, presents another barrier.

There’s also the fact that many don’t think they need or deserve it. The mental health charity Mind found that 1 in 3 adults and more than 1 in 4 young people didn’t access mental health support, despite struggling, as they didn’t think they deserved it.

For those who did try and access support, a quarter of both adults and young people found themselves unable to receive any. 

People are finding other ways to cope

In absence of proper, qualified and professional mental health support, and during periods of lockdown and isolation, people are finding other ways to cope. Mind has found that:

  • More than 50% of adults and young people are either over-eating or under-eating 
  • Nearly a third are using alcohol or illegal drugs
  • Of those with existing mental health conditions, a third of young people are self-harming 

What does this mean for businesses?

Clearly, it’s easy to see why the looming mental health crisis has been dubbed the “shadow pandemic”. Not only are people struggling, but people aren’t seeking or are unable to seek the support that they desperately need. 

Yes, these issues are very broad, but these aren’t isolated to happening just outside the workplace. They happen to people, which means they happen to people inside the office. 

People spend the majority of their waking hours at work (whether in-office or virtually). This is why we as a business have chosen to tackle mental health in the workplace, and it’s why employers play such an incredibly important role in providing workplace mental health support and in removing many of the barriers to mental health support. 

Only around 13% of employees say that they’d feel comfortable discussing a mental health issue in the workplace, and yet 89% of those who say they struggle with a mental health issue also say that it directly impacts their work.

Because of this, mental health issues remain the leading cause of absence and sickness in the workplace. 

Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer, the CEO of mental health charity Mind, conducted a government-led review into mental health at work back in 2017. 

The review highlighted the huge annual cost of poor mental health to businesses, sitting somewhere between £33 billion and £42 billion a year. 

A more recent report from Deloitte, published in 2019, put this cost at between £42 billion and £45 billion. In short, the stats around mental health at work were heading the wrong way pre-pandemic. 

The dust of the pandemic has yet to settle and it’s hard to say just what impact the year will have had, but it’s highly likely that the next comprehensive report into workplace wellbeing will paint a further grim picture. 

While published almost four years ago, the Stevenson and Farmer report made some important recommendations which still hold just as true now.

The responsibility for “Thriving at Work”, as their report was titled, was placed at the feet of employers. As they wrote, “The most important recommendation is that all employers, regardless of size or industry, should adopt 6 ‘mental health core standards’ that lay basic foundations for an approach to workplace mental health.”

These core principles are as follows:

  • Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan 
  • Develop mental health awareness among employees 
  • Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling 
  • Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work-life balance and opportunities for development 
  • Promote effective people management through line managers and supervisors 
  • Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing

If anything, this advice is even more critical now than it was back when the report was first penned. 

The Deloitte report of 2019 found that businesses could see a return on investment of up to £11 for every £1 invested in mental health. 

After the year we’ve all had, we’d wager that return could now be even higher.