Report On Employer Attitudes To Mental Health Issues Released

The Brits have released a report on employer attitudes toward mental health conditions. There is a story about this report in The Independent on Sunday, bearing the headline, Employers fail people with mental health problems.

The extent of stigma and discrimination is revealed today in a report on employers’ attitudes which found that half of business leaders would not hire people with mental health problems because of negative attitudes from co-workers.

“My co-workers made me do it!” Maybe so, and maybe not so. I don’t think the peer pressure excuse is any better than the “mental illness” excuse on the surface of the matter.

Four in 10 managers believe it is a “significant risk” to recruit people with mental health conditions to a job dealing with the public or clients, while nearly one in four are unable to name a single mental illness, the Shaw Trust survey of 500 business leaders found. This widespread ignorance exists despite the fact that one in six Britons are suffering from conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, or anxiety at any given time, according to the charity Mind.

Nor is the ignorance excuse any better.

I notice that there is no mention is made of “schizophrenia” among the above “disorders”, and I’m wondering if there isn’t a bit of discrimination involved in the reporters neglect of the “disorder”, non-symptomatic, of course. Is “schizophrenia” somehow ‘beyond the pale’ of ordinary human “disturbed” experience?

The new poll, carried out by Trajectory, revealed that one in four companies believe people with mental health problems are less reliable than other employees. The research upon which the report is based also found that 78 per cent of employers think British industry loses talent because it does not know the best way to deal with mental health in the workplace. But Jacki Connor, director of colleague engagement at Sainsbury’s supermarket, said many of its store managers find people with mental health issues to be more reliable, and staff absence is lower among people with disabilities.

Change is in the air…

There are some signs of changing attitudes. About 21 per cent of companies now employ someone with a mental health condition, compared with 11 per cent in the 2006 survey.

Or is this increased percentage just an indication of the growing epidemic of “mental illness” drug companies, law enforcement officials, mental health industry professionals, advocacy groups, and the economic downturn have managed to stir up?

I don’t believe employers in the USA are any less prejudicial than employers in Great Britain, in fact I imagine them to be a good deal more discriminatory, and I think a report of this sort might do a world of good if conducted in the USA as well. Perhaps, given such a report, we could start to see a positive improvement in attitudes at the workplace as a result.